By MS | January 12, 2020
In 1978, Michael Siavage, executive director of the SCI, told a New Jersey newspaper that he believed the Gambino brothers and their associates “were a mob in the making.”
He attributed this to the fact that they were successful businessmen.
“Their business growth is remarkable for young guys who came from Sicily with nothing,” he told the newspaper.
He didn’t mean it in a complimentary way.
Siavage and Justin Dintino, chief of intelligence and special services for the New Jersey State Police, believed the Gambino brothers were basically bullying their way to the top – and doing a bunch of illegal stuff in between.
They and other law enforcement officials suspected the brothers were responsible for dozens of arsons at pizza parlors in and around Delran – which they claimed didn’t start happening until the Gambino brothers arrived there in 1972.
They even claimed that the brothers were trying to muscle in on other pizzerias the brothers didn’t own, in an attempt to corner the market.
But none of those claims were ever substantiated.
Joe had been a victim of arson himself when his King of Pizza and Executive Lounge Disco in Dover, Del., burned down in 1977.
Still, law enforcement was adamant that the brothers were involved somehow, some way.
There were even rumors going around at the time about a cheese war happening between Eagle Cheese (Bonnano Family) and Ferro Cheese (Gambino Family) which some believed was the true cause of the fires.
One pizza parlor owner said, “If they don’t buy the right cheese, there’s a fire. If they don’t buy from the right Families, there’s a fire.”
And of course, the Gambino brothers were thrown right in the thick of it.
Despite all the drama, Joe and Rosario wanted to do something special for their brother.
In 1978, they bought a piece of property which had formerly housed the Old Rustic Tavern – which had, coincidentally, burned down.
Joe and Rosario planned to open a new restaurant and name it the Don Giovanni Supper Club, in honor of their older brother.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t secure financing and the restaurant was never built. Much of it was due to the bad press the Gambino brothers were getting, courtesy of law enforcement.
That same year, Joe and Rosario decided pull up stakes from Delran and move a little bit south – to Cherry Hill while John had a date with a banker.
“741, Frankfurt. Saturday.”
With all the money being made in the pizza business, it seems logical that someone would be needed to watch the cash. In the case of the Gambinos, that someone was Michele Sindona.
Sindona was a powerhouse Sicilian-born banker who handled the cash for many clients throughout the world, including the Vatican and even the financial transactions of the CIA.
But his most important clients were the Gambino brothers and their Mafia friends in Italy.
Not only did he take care of the Gambinos’ money, he was also a close friend of John’s and was a financial advisor for John’s G & G Concrete business.
The two were seen together frequently throughout New York City in the late 1960s and early 70s, dining at high-end restaurants or hobknobbing with the rich and famous at dinner parties.
But things started to go downhill for Sindona in the mid-70s when the big money he was managing started disappearing and the banks he owned started going broke.
The Gambinos were justifiably concerned. He was their money man, and they wanted their money. Sindona was in a tight spot.
He was under indictment in New York for defrauding Franklin National Bank of $45,000,000 and wasn’t permitted to leave the city. He was set to go to trial in October 1979, and he needed to make things right. So, he turned to the only lifeline he had left – his good friend, John Gambino.
Gambino and Sindona hatched a plan for a staged kidnapping to get Sindona back to Italy so he could gather documentation about all the people he did business with (and all the sordid, secret details) as a way to reduce the charges pending against him in New York.
He had also intended to blackmail all of his political enemies to save his ass as a way to get back the Gambinos’ money.
Sindona had been a member of the P-2, a super-secret, high-level Freemason organization, that was involved in all sorts of intriguing scandals, including coup attempts in Italy.
In fact, Sindona had met with John and Rosario Spatola that June to discuss a plot for a coup in Italy to separate Sicily from the mainland. He had promised them that if they helped him, he would give them control of the orange export business. But that plan never came to fruition.
John procured a fake passport for Sindona in the name of Joseph Bonamico, and on August 2, 1979, Sindona was “kidnapped” by “Sicilian terrorists.”
He was gone for 11 weeks.
Of course, the FBI didn’t believe it.
While he was “missing”, he lived in a villa in Torretta, Italy owned by Spatola and was escorted around Palermo by John who had gone there soon after Sindona arrived to keep an eye on him, all the while trying to put together what he needed to get himself out of his hole.
Unfortunately, the blackmailing plot fell through when Rosario’s brother, Vincenzo, was arrested trying to deliver a letter about a ransom meeting to be held in Vienna.
Sindona returned to the U.S., and was picked up at the airport by Rosario Gambino, who then hid him for three days before Sindona called his lawyer on October 16 and told him he had escaped his kidnappers.
Later, when John was being interrogated for passport irregularities during a visit to Italy, police found a piece of paper on him with the words, “741, Frankfurt. Saturday”, written in Italian.
The Feds determined it was a key piece of information in Sindona’s alleged kidnapping and learned the once-powerful banker had, indeed, returned to New York on TWA Flight 741 from Frankfurt – on a Saturday.
John and the others involved were arrested and charged with “aggravated extortion” in Italy. Sindona was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail in the U.S..
After being released, he was extradited to Italy. In 1986, Sindona died while serving time on a murder conviction. His coffee had been poisoned with cyanide.
It was never determined if the Gambinos got their money back. Probably not.
After the Sindona nightmare and the probable loss of millions of dollars, John’s headaches were just beginning.
Back in Cherry Hill, his brothers were starting to feel the heat.
NEXT: Part 3 of Carlo’s Cousin’s: The Shadowy Sicilian Connection
Joe and Rosario Gambino – Soap Stars
READ: Part 4 of Carlo’s Cousins: The Shadowy Sicilian Connection
I Fought the Law and…
READ: Part 1 of Carlo’s Cousin’s: The Shadowy Sicilian Connection
John Gambino – Genesis
READ: Part 1A of Carlo’s Cousin’s: The Shadowy Sicilian Connection
John Gambino’s Network of Players
READ: Part 2 of Carlo’s Cousin’s: The Shadowy Sicilian Connection
Cherry Hill, Here We Come!
READ: Part 2A of Carlo’s Cousin’s: The Shadowy Sicilian Connection
Don Giovanni and the Banker
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