December 14, 2019 — They say a picture can say a thousand words. This one said, “You’re shelved!” And it echoes from the grave.
According to sources, a photo snapped of Springfield (MA) mob elder statesman Amedeo Santaniello and mafia turncoat Felix Tranghese sitting together in 2017 landed Santaniello and his wiseguy son Ralphie on the shelf by order of Genovese crime family brass in New York. Tranghese testified at Genovese street boss Arthur (Little Artie) Nigro’s trial in 2011 where Nigro was found guilty of racketeering and murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Nigro died back in April at 74. He was part of the Genovese’s historic 116th Street crew headquartered between Harlem and the East Bronx. Nigro came from the Bronx and once told a mob hit man that he needed to get better at “head shots” when killing his victims.
The image in question was taken at the popular Springfield pizza parlor Red Rose Pizzeria in the summer of 2017 and made its way onto various social media platforms shortly thereafter. Reportedly, Nigro was furious that the 80-year old Santaniello would pose for a picture with Tranghese, 67, and ordered both Santaniellos banished as punishment, from behind bars, per sources (a move supported and carried out by the family’s current administration).
At the time of the incident, Nigro was locked up with Ralphie Santaniello in the same federal correctional facility in Pennsylvania. The younger Santaniello, 52, has another year to do on an extortion bust from 2016. Before his arrest, he had ascended to the top of the Springfield crew and on the cusp of “made man” status, according to court records and his father Amedeo had returned to good standing in area gangland circles, allegedly acting as an adviser to his son and nephew, Albert (The Animal) Calvanese, as they put the crew back together after crippling infighting and government defections shook the local mob landscape to its core in the previous years.
The Genovese clan has long maintained a crew in Western Massachusetts based out of hardscrabble Springfield. Nigro took a special interest in the family’s Western Mass wing upon assuming street boss duties in 2002, focusing on generating a stronger revenue stream from the regime and tapping Tranghese and others to rev things up. Calvanese, 57, was a loanshark and collector in the crew during that era.
Amedeo Santaniello’s days in the Springfield mob crew date back several decades. He was the crew’s numbers lottery boss in the 1970s and 1980s when the notorious Scibelli brothers ran the show. This is his second shelving and many mob insiders from the area predict its permanent. Ralphie Santaniello on the other hand could get a reprieve from the edict in the future, per two different sources, if he keeps his nose clean while doing his time.
Widely-acclaimed MassLive.com crime writer Stephanie Barry was the first to report that Amedeo Santaniello was on the outs with the Springfield crew. Sources in the area say Calvanese and his uncle were butting heads before the photo episode and the shelving is more complicated than a single ill-advised photo op.
Santaniello has a history of rankling feathers with crew leaders. In the 1990s, he was the right-hand man to the crew’s then No. 2 in charge, Adolfo (Big Al) Bruno before Bruno chased him to Florida for subversive behavior — reportedly trying to sidle up to Genovese leaders in New York behind Bruno’s back. After Bruno was killed in a power play pulled off by Tranghese and Bruno’s protégé-turned-rival Anthony (Bingy) Arillotta in 2003, Santaniello and his son were allowed to return to the fold.
Tranghese and Arillotta were indicted together for Bruno’s murder in 2010 and both cut cooperation deals, helping the feds nail Little Artie Nigro and his entire Genovese cabinet, in exchange for shortened sentences. Arillotta replaced Bruno as boss and shelved Tranghese in 2006.
In his testimony, Tranghese admitted to relaying orders from Nigro to Arillotta that Bruno needed to be murdered for a series of transgressions, capped by a casual conversation he had with an FBI agent — held at Red Rose Pizzeria — that confirmed intelligence on crime family affairs and made it into a public court document. Arillotta farmed the contract out and Bruno was gunned down on November 23, 2003 outside his social club headquarters by a low-level local hoodlum named Frankie Roche.
Per FBI records, Tranghese was sponsored for membership into the Genovese crime family by Big Al Bruno in a 1982 ceremony conducted by the legendary Frank (Frankie Sky Ball) Scibelli in the basement of a South End Springfield restaurant. When Sky Ball and his brother, “Baba,” died and went to prison, respectively, in the early 2000s, Bruno succeeded them in the crew’s cat bird’s seat until he was assassinated.
Following his release from prison a few years ago, Tranghese opted against joining the Witness Protection Program and moved back to the Springfield area. Arillotta, 52, has reportedly done the same. Nigro “made” Arillotta in a New York ceremony that took place in the months prior to the Bruno hit.
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