The Third Internal Colombo War

“Persico vs. Orena” circa 1991 – 1993

By The Other Guy | April 14, 2020

Henry (Hank the Bank) Smurra

By the late-1970s, early-1980s, much of the membership of the Colombo Family was now living out on Long Island, having moved from Brooklyn and Queens years earlier. A realistic count of the Long Island membership would have been approximately 30 to 40 inducted members and many more associates residing between Nassau and Suffolk counties. If you add in Queens, probably half the borgata lived out that way.

From 1980 through 1986, the borgata had suffered several major law enforcement assaults on the membership, resulting in many convictions and imprisonments of the entire official top family administration.

Boss Carmine (Junior) Persico, Underboss Gennaro (Jerry Lang) Langella, and Consigliere Alphonse (Allie Boy) Persico were each off the streets serving what amounted to life sentences. Additionally, many important captains and key soldiers were also behind bars including such iconic figures as former underboss John (Sonny) Franzese, John (Jackie) DeRoss, Dominick (Donny Shacks) Montemorano, Anthony (Scappy) Scarpati, Hugh (Apples) McIntosh, Dominick (Little Dom) Cataldo, Alphonse (Little Allie) Persico, and others.

(L to R): Allie Boy, Teddy, and Carmine

But in their place, Junior Persico had appointed a very capable “Acting Administration” consisting of Victor (Little Vic) Orena as the acting boss, Benedetto (Benny) Aloi as acting underboss, and Vincent (Jimmy) Angellino as the acting consigliere. Each had proven their mettle.

Orena was a distant Persico cousin and a huge earner. Aloi, the son of a highly respected founding member named Buster Aloi, was another solid pick. Both lived on Long Island where a good percentage of members and associates now resided and operated. Jimmy Angellino hailed from their Brooklyn base and was considered another loyal soldier. Each were highly trusted and had previously followed Persico’s orders to the letter.

As the FBI once observed, “Although we have jailed their entire official hierarchy, the Colombo network of LCN is so well structured, that there appears to be little disruption to their daily racket operations. The remaining soldiers and associates are so well insulated that they conduct business as usual, despite a leadership vacuum from above”.

That was the atmosphere by 1987 in the Colombo Family. They were a well oiled mafia machine, generating millions upon millions of dollars annually. They operated in all the boroughs but with a heavy emphasis on Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens andthe counties of Nassau and Suffolkout on Long Island. The “eastern district” as the FBI liked to put it.

By 1988, besides the many private mob social clubs that dotted the boroughs they operated out of, two primary locations Vic and Benny frequented and used as makeshift headquarters, were The Manor Restaurant in Merrick, and Stella’s Restaurant in Floral Park, both in Nassau County.

Tommy Petrizzo entering a limo.

Although ostensibly owned by fronts to obtain the liquor licenses, in actuality The Manor was owned by a former boxer and soldier named Tommy Ocera, and Stella’s by captain Tommy Petrizzo. Both were wealthy, long time members of the borgata who were virtual “shadows” to the general public. Even law enforcement paid little attention to them.

But all that changed once the “acting hierarchy” was appointed. Vic Orena and Tommy Ocera were partners and close friends. Tommy Petrizzo was another close aide and associate of Orena. Ostensibly a legitimate businessman, Petrizzo was a multimillionaire construction executive.

Once the new Colombo hierarchy started frequenting those restaurants, both Ocera and Petrizzo would land on the radar and become major targets of law enforcement from the constant stream of associates, soldiers and capo’s that visited those locations daily. Soon, local rackets squad detectives and federal agents started a steady surveillance.

It was the beginning of a concerted law enforcement effort against the Family, round #2 so to speak. In short, nearly every individual deemed an active Colombo “player” visiting those locales became a top priority with a bullseye on their back.

Benny Aloi

Yet, the borgata was functioning at a higher level than they had in years. Rackets revenue streams were pouring in from all directions, with a quiet buzzing as the Family’s worker bees went about operating their schemes, rackets and businesses daily.

Gambling, loansharking, union racketeering over a litany of labor locals, shakedowns and extortions, business infiltration and industry corruption accelerated to a unprecedented level. Additionally, specialized racket schemes such asgasoline tax-evasion, marijuana and cocaine smuggling into Florida then transported north to New York, and a host of other rackets kept New York’s Colombo Family in the chips as it were. Needless to say, the vast majority of the rank and file were very pleased with the new Orena administration.

Almost immediately to being appointed to their exulted posts, Vic Orena and Benny Aloi elevated several key soldiers to serve as regime “capos”, and broke several other previously established capos back down to soldier status. They elevated mafiosi to those positions whom they felt more comfortable with, hoodlums who would show fealty to them. Men such as Pasquale (Big Patty) Amato, William (Wild Bill) Cutolo, Thomas Petrizzo and Joseph Scopo. Several other existing capos whom they felt close to were also kept in their positions, such as Vinny Aloi and Salvatore Profaci in New Jersey.

In short, Orena’s “cabinet” was soon staffed with men who for the most part owed their loyal to him. It made for a smooth, well functioning “administration” and a generally happy membership. But it also unwittingly laid the seeds and groundwork for a budding insurrection the likes of which the New York underworld hadn’t seen in over 30 years. A “1920s Chicago style” underworld battle that would all but consume not only the Colombos, but the other four New York Families as well. A gangland battle for supremacy that even law enforcement found hard to believe could happen in the modern 1990s era.

What follows is that story!

Little Vic was a very well-respected mafioso who had been a top capo for several years and a soldier for many more before that. He was a sharp guy, and a proven “earner”. Orena was primarily a loanshark, operating a huge shylock business he’d grown over the years. He was estimated to have several million dollars out “on the streets” in loans any given day. Vic was what you’d call a “shylock’s shylock”. He led a cadre of loansharks under him who pushed his money at a higher rate of interest, or “vigorish” as its called, than he charged them.

He would typically charge his soldiers and most trusted associates 1% to 1.5% weekly interest rate, bringing him a safe 52% to 78% annual return on his money. They in turn would lend it out to their borrowers anywhere from 1.5% to 2 or 3% weekly, which brought a tidy little profit of 104% to 156% annually. There were some loan customers that might even be charged a whopping 4-5% weekly, bringing a 208% to 260% profit…all cash. It was a great business model.

In addition to his shylock “bank”, he’d infiltrated several lucrative businesses over the years, including the famed Stefan’s Florist in the town of Cedarhurst where he also resided, and several large air-freight companies operating at JFK Airport, just a stones throw from his home over the border in Queens County. He was also said to hold a hidden interest in Club G, inside the famed Garden City Hotel, and several years earlier had secretly owned a popular discotheque in Roslyn named Strawberries.
Vic brought in solid and steady income to the borgata and had the reputation of being “capable” to perform a piece of “work” if required of him by his superiors as well. He was a very well thought of wiseguy.

Once he was elevated to the “acting boss” position, he made it his goal to forge closer relations with other borgata bosses. John Gotti of the Gambinos, and Joe Massino of the Bonannos were the two he got closest to. Both were fledgling bosses in their own right, and thus it became a mutual “back scratching” mindset. You back my play, and I’ll back your play.

This was especially true of Orena’s relationship with Gotti, who although now the official boss of the Gambino Family (after having killed Paul Castellano), was still not the dominant force on New York’s “Commission”. That position was reserved and widely recognized as belonging to Vincent (The Chin) Gigante, longtime boss of the Genovese mob.

Gotti knew that Gigante secretly disliked him and was doing his best to surreptitiously undermine Gotti every chance he got. But what he didn’t know was that working in tandem with Chin was the Lucchese Family. Victor (Little Vic) Amuso and Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, the boss and underboss respectively of the Luccheses, had forged a secret alliance with the Genovese Family to slowly but surely target, isolate and murder all those responsible for Paul Castellano’s assassination. Over the next five years they would be behind the murders of numerous Gotti loyalists.

(L to R): Cutolo, Orena, and Aloi

So, Gotti felt that in gaining the favor of Vic Orena and the Colombos, as well as Joe Massino and the Bonanno mob would swing any Commission vote “three to two”, thereby giving Gotti and his Gambino Family the edge at the negotiating “sit down” table.

But there was one problem. Vic was only the “acting boss”. He didn’t have a dissenting vote. Only “official” bosses had that right. Orena had been given the very unique privilege and authority enabling him to make guys and kill guys” by Carmine Persico, a rare privilege typically reserved for only “official” bosses. But he still wasn’t the official boss, and Chin Gigante had been adamant in his refusal to sit down with any “acting administration”, regardless of who it was or which crew they represented.

So, John Gotti, for his own selfish reasons, soon lobbied Orena, whispering in Vic’s ear that Persico was out of touch with the rank and file, that he was too greedy with his demands for the lion’s share of borgata profits, and that Vic Orena would make a far better Colombo “Representante”.

Little Vic couldn’t have agreed more. Having served several years at the apex of the borgata, Vic was now comfortably in the “boss” chair, and felt quite at home with the Colombo crown atop his head. There was only one problem with that. From the beginning of his tenure, he was made aware that his was but a temporary position. He was but a “seat warmer” so to speak, maintaining the “Kings Throne” until Carmine’s beloved son Alphonse, known as “Little Allie Boy” to differentiate from his uncle “Big Allie Boy”, was released from federal prison in a few years. The future was Allie Boy’s for the taking. A right of passage from the boss to his son and heir. And everybody in the Family well knew it.

You see, Carmine was never coming home. He was serving a 139 year sentence and knew he would die in prison. But his son Alphonse had received a 12-year jail term and was well within striking distance of the throne. Carmine had literally spent his entire life since he was a little kid in the mafia, and this was his legacy. To pass the baton to his boy, nephews and cousins so that the Persico surname would always rein supreme within the New York City underworld.

Joseph (JoJo) Russo

Not everybody in the Colombo mob was thrilled at that prospect. Many in the rank and file had grown tired of the Persico reign through the years, and secretly welcomed a change in the Family structure. With John Gotti and the backing of the powerful 275 member Gambino Family, and the secondary supporting role played by Joe Massino and the 200 member Bonanno Family, Vic Orena started to feel his oats. He soon secretly consulted with underboss Benny Aloi and several other key members of the Family Vic felt he could trust. Their glowing support of him only further bolstered Orena, convincing him to make a grab for the throne.

Surreptitiously, Vic and Benny soon started sending out messages and innuendos to the Colombo troops, disparaging Persico and his leadership qualities. They attempted to set the stage for a full Family vote amongst the rank and file to pick a new man to lead them. Of course, this was done in the most low-key way possible so as not to rock the Colombo boat and make Persico aware of their Machiavellian plot.

After all, Carmine still had many diehard supporters, not the least of which were his brother Teddy (a Family capo), nephews Jojo Russo and Chucky Russo (both important capos), and many other key soldiers and associates who were either blood relatives or decades long dedicated personal friends from his boyhood back in the Family’s stronghold of South Brooklyn. Men such as Jerry Langella, Joseph (Joe T) Tomasello, Greg Scarpa Sr., Robert (Bobby Zam) Zambardi, Carmine Sessa, Dominick (Donny Shacks) Montemorano, and others, who still had large crews of followers on the streets of Brooklyn, and an unwavering loyalty to the Persico regime.

Jerry (Jerry Lang) Langella

To build on his increasing influence within Cosa Nostra, to position and ingratiate himself for the future, Vic Orena orchestrated several key moves in late 1988 and 1989. He secretly lobbied and schemed for the killing of consigliere Jimmy Angellino, who was a known Persico ally. A clear threat to Orena’s leadership, and commissioned and coordinated the killing of Tommy Ocera, a stanch Persico adherent and close friend of Teddy Persico.

Both murders are what we call “Lupara Bianco” or “White Shotgun”. A killing where the body just disappears. Desirable in that the killing usually draws less “heat” from law enforcement. Without a corpse there’s usually not much to investigate.

Shortly after these incidents, Orena and Aloi summoned their newly installed consigliere Carmine Sessa (he took over Angellino’s position after shooting him) for a sensitive conference. Once Sessa arrived for the meet, they informed him of all the bad things Carmine Persico had done to the Family over the years, and how they had had enough.

Seeking to depose him as boss, Orena then instructed Sessa to go around and “poll” all the Family’s captains in a vote to see who wanted Victor Orena to be the boss of their borgata. Of course, Sessa was specifically instructed not to contact Carmine’s brother Teddy, or his nephews Jojo and Chucky Russo about the vote. They would be usurped and quickly broken in rank once Carmine was deposed as “Representante”.

As soon as he left that meet Sessa immediately ran to Teddy Persico and Jojo Russo spilling his guts about the whole plot. Within days the Persico camp had armed themselves and set out to strike first. Not quite the answer Orena and Aloi had hoped for to say the least, but Vic would receive a definite answer nonetheless.

One evening while driving home from a enjoyable night of partying at Club G with some of his associates, Vic noticed a carload of men parked down the block from his house on Buckingham Drive in the quiet, leafy environ of Cedarhurst. He quickly made a U-turn and drove past them again to try and catch a better glance of who it was. Despite the shadows he was able to identify the silhouettes of four men who quickly turned their heads away as he passed them. Once he saw their reactions, he stepped on the gas and roared away down the block and out of sight. He thought he’d seen Sessa in that car, but regardless, he knew they weren’t there with any good intentions..

…That was that as they say! For over the next several years a gangland war would rage openly on the streets of New York City and Long Island, the likes of which had not been witnessed in over three decades. Certainly the new younger generation of New Yorkers had only heard about these types of things in history books or thoroughly enjoyed watching them on the silver screen at the movies over a bag of popcorn. It was only a gangster movie after all, not real life.

Only this WAS real life. And these were real mobsters, not fictional celluloid gangsters like Sonny Corleone or Tony Soprano. What I describe next actually happened.

Chronology of the Third Colombo War!

1988 – Disappearance of Brooklyn based Vincent (Jimmy) Angellino. Serving as acting consigliere, Angellino is seen as an impediment to Orena’s power. He was lured to the New Jersey home of a Colombo soldier under the guise of a “meet” and shot to death by Carmine Sessa and Wild Billy Cutolo as he descended down a staircase to the basement on Orena’s orders. His body was never found.

Thomas (Tommy) Ocera

November 13, 1989 – Disappearance of Thomas (Tommy) Ocera. He was a low-key but influential soldier in Pasquale Amato’s regime and a Teddy Persico confidante. A former professional boxer, Ocera was critical of Orena’s and Gotti’s management style. His body was later unearthed from a shallow grave in Forest Park, Queens.

June 1991 – Acting Boss Victor (Little Vic) Orena is stalked outside his home by Persico gunmen looking to end the gang war before it starts. Luckily for Orena he spotted them and fled the scene. THIS event officially starts the third Colombo War.

October 1991 – Soldier Gioacchino (Jackie) Leale is shot to death in the parking lot of a Plainview, L.I. hotel. Leale was a participant in Ocera’s murder. His killing was viewed as payback for botching the burial of Ocera allowing police to recover the body, and to sever ties to Vic Orena.

November 1991 – Orena shooters stalk soldier Gregory Scarpa, Sr. but miss an opportunity to kill him on a Brooklyn Street.

November 1991 – Orena loyalist and acting underboss Benedetto (Benny) Aloi is shot at on a Queens street but is not hit. Aloi went into hiding after this incident.

Henry (Hank the Bank) Smurra

November 24, 1991 – Persico loyalist and newly minted soldier Henry (Hank the Bank) Smurra is found shot to death behind the wheel of his car on a Brooklyn street.

November 28, 1991 – Four days later Persico associates Ilario (Fat Larry) Sessa and Ronald Calder are repeatedly shot at on a Brooklyn street. Calder was wounded, Sessa escaped injury despite his weight and girth by zig-zagging between parked cars and pedestrians.

The month of December, 1991 was an especially violent month in the warfare. Throwing Yuletide cheer to the wayside, both Persico and Orena gunmen did their very best to deliver “presents” of lead to their opponents.

Although all Colombo members and associates in both factions kept an wary eye out for each other, several distinct regimes of both factions got tooled up and went out actively hunting each other day and night in a deadly game of “cat and mouse”. Among the Persico regimes most active were that of Joseph (Jojo) Russo, his cousin Anthony (Chucky) Russo, Theodore (Big Teddy) Persico, and Joseph (Joe Monty) Monteleone.

The most active Orena faction murder crews were headed by Pasquale (Big Patty) Amato, William (Wild Bill) Cutolo, Nicholas (Nicky Black) Grancio, and Joseph Scopo.

Stolen “work” and “crash” cars were hidden in garages until ready for use. Large cache’s of revolvers, shotguns and rifles were stashed and at the ready. The mafiosi had walkie-talkie’s and professional grade police scanners to monitor police responses, disposable beepers to keep in contact, and “Coles” books to track down phone numbers with corresponding addresses to better stalk their prey.

Mafia warfare of the 1990’s was a highly sophisticated affair. And yet for all their fancy equipment and sophistication, it simply came down to a matter of life and death at the hands of men comfortable with the Grim Reaper. Lifelong friend against friend, brother against brother, “compare” against compare. It was a messy affair at best.

Rosario (Black Sam) Nastasa

December 5, 1991 – veteran soldier Rosario (Black Sam) Nastasa is shot to death inside his Belvedere Social Club in Brooklyn by two masked Orena gunmen. His girlfriend Kay Dugan was also grazed by a stray bullet but was not seriously wounded. Black Sam, a outspoken Persico stalwart, was 78-years-old at the time, but his killers didn’t give a fuck.

A few days later outside of a Colombo social club in the Bensonhurst area, Persico shooters unloaded on Orena faction associate Joseph Tolino while he was standing on the sidewalk talking outside the club. Tolino was wounded in the ankle but an elderly Genovese soldier named Gaetano (Tommy Scars) Amato was killed by gunfire. Amato just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No retribution was sought by the Genovese crew because all their men had been duly warned to stay away from the Colombo’s for this very reason.

December 8, 1991 – Orena faction sympathizer and associate Vincent (Vinny Venus) Fusaro is shot to death by a high powered rifle outside of his home while he was stringing Christmas lights. Gregory Scarpa Sr. was said to have been the shooter, firing from a car on the street.

Vincent (Vinny Venus) Fusaro

December 8, 1991 – On this same day Orena soldier Louis (Bobo) Maspeso’s son, associate Jimmy Malpeso is shot in the chest by Persico loyalists as a message to his father. He survived but was badly wounded.

December 8, 1991 – After Malpeso’s shooting and attempted murder, his father Bobo Malpeso was infuriated and bloodthirsty for revenge. He immediately went to a Orena faction social club on Avenue N, spoke to capo Patty Amato (who had since been elevated to acting underboss) and requested a hit crew to avenge his sons shooting. Gathering up several Orena men to retaliate, they set out in two cars combing the Brooklyn streets for Persico men.

After hours with no luck, a hit team was dispatched to a bagel shop run by Persico associates Frank (BF) Guerra and Anthony Ferrara to try and kill them. Parking a getaway car a few doors down from the bagelry, young Orena faction associate Christopher Liberatore walked into the shop requesting to speak to Guerra. When the innocent 18-year-old counterman Matteo Speranza questioned why he wanted his boss, Liberatore opened fire killing the naive teenager…. it was more than the police and the public can take.

This killing galvanized law enforcement’s effort to stop the wanton violence which was now way out of hand and affecting the public. The daily newspapers and media outlets were reporting on the gang war regularly and the public was both captivated and frozen with fear at the same time.

December 30, 1991 – Several hit teams of Orena gunmen stalked Persico loyalist Greg Scarpa who had become a major combatant in the war. On a crowed residential street in Bensonhurst, they closed in on Scarpa’s automobile while he was stuck in traffic. Coming from all sides, they opened fire shattering his windshield and peppering his car with bullets.

Nicholas (Nicky Black) Grancio

His daughter Linda and baby grandchild were in a car in back of him. Scarpa stepped on the gas and mounted the curb racing down the sidewalk to evade his would be killers, striking several pedestrians in the process. Miraculously nobody was even grazed by a single bullet in the fracas. But this event would incense Scarpa, a conscienceless stone killer to begin with, to ramp up the violence seeking revenge. A relentless vendetta against all Orena faction members soon ensued.

January 7, 1992 – Scarpa and several of his men stalk key Orena captain and Local # 707 Teamster official Nicholas (Nicky Black) Grancio. While Grancio was sitting in his SUV at the curb, Scarpa drove by and let go with a blast from a .12 gauge shotgun point blank into Grancio’s head, tearing Nicky Black’s face from his skull. Grancio associate Anthony Bianco was also wounded but survived.

February, 1992 – Greg Scarpa and Orena faction soldier Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace spot one another on a Brooklyn street. They open up on each other with pistols, and Cacace takes a .38 caliber bullet square in the stomach but survived.

March 4, 1992 – Family associates Michael Giangregorio and John Dunn were shot and seriously wounded at Bay 13th Street in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn by gunmen who unleashed a barrage of gunfire from a passing car. Thought to be Persico adherents, Giangregorio was hit at least six times in the back, and Dunn four times in the back and arms as they climbed into Giangregorio’s late model Cadillac.

Minerva and Imbergamo double murder.

March 25, 1992 – The gangland war reaches Long Island. Orena faction soldier John Minerva, who had previously been a loyal member of Persico cousin Andrew Russo’s faction but jumped the fence to Vic Orena, is stalked to a cafe he ran on Broadway in Massapequa. As he stepped into his automobile with mob associate Michael Imbergamo, gunmen from Jojo Russo’s crew quickly ran up and emptied their revolvers into the car. Both Minerva and Imbergamo were each shot numerous times and killed. The shooters just as quickly escaped in a waiting getaway car. This double murder made the front pages of Newsday and again shocked the public.

March 27, 1992 – Persico loyalists and key Russo faction members Thomas (Tommy) Gioeli and Joseph (Joe Monte) Monteleone are attacked by a team of Orena gunmen. Both are shot and seriously wounded but survive the murder attempt. This is how Tommy got his nickname “Tommy Shots”.

April 1992 – Orena soldier Louis (Bobo) Maspeso is stalked and shot at as he exits his car. Grazed, he narrowly escaped his would be killers by inches.

Lorenzo (Larry Lamps) Lampasi

May 22, 1992 – Orena soldier Lorenzo (Larry Lamps) Lampasi is shot to death as he steps out of his Cadillac to close the gate at his driveway. He was a veteran member of the Family and the son of old-time “mustache” Lorenzo Lampasi Sr. The killer was said to have been Greg Scarpa who had a strong dislike for Lampasi to begin with and wanted to silence him. Lampasi had repeatedly accused Scarpa of being an informant (an accusation that turned out to be true).

June, 1992 – Persico associate Thomas McLaughlin is attacked on a crowded Brooklyn street in broad daylight by several Orena gunmen. An innocent bystander, teenager Daniel Norden is shot and wounded, but survives.

October 7, 1992 – Orena associate Steven (Stevie Lightening) Mancusi is shot and killed by several Persico gunmen while walking a Brooklyn street.

October 19, 1992 – Double-murder of Colombo associates Vincent DePippo and his young nephew Neil Mastro, who were found shot to death in an automobile parked along Cropsey Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Thought to have been Persico followers, each had been shot once in the head when they were discovered at 2 am that morning.

December, 1992 becomes another bloody month in the street fighting. There must be something about snow and Christmas lights that gave incentive to the Colombo’s because three separate incidents took place:

Soldier Richard (Richie the Jeweler) Capichano is shot and wounded. The son of a former soldier, Richie was believed to be a Persico loyalist.

Robert (Bobby T) Tarantola disappears and is reported to police by his family as a “missing person”. Tarantola is still missing, almost 30 years later. He was believed to have been an Orena sympathizer.

Greg Scarpa shown with his eye blown out.

December 28, 1992 – Not directly related to the Colombo War but a pivotal event nonetheless that greatly affected it, was the shooting of Gregory (The Grim Reaper) Scarpa Sr. Attempting to defend his young son in a neighborhood argument over drugs, Scarpa drove to the home of Lucchese associate Michael (Flattop) DeRosa and confronted him and his friends about their abuse of his son. One word led to another, and both sides opened fire on one another.

Scarpa got the worst of it by far, having his eye blown out by a bullet…like a scene from a movie, Scarpa drove himself home, poured a glass of whiskey for himself and was driven to a local hospital where he underwent surgery to save his life. He survived to fight another day.

May 1993 – New Jersey soldiers and Orena faction members Salvatore (Tutti) Lombardino, Aurelio (Ray) Cagno and his brother Rocco Cagno set up and kill soldier James (Jimmy Ran) Randazzo. Although they serve in the same regime under Salvatore (Jersey Sal) Profaci, Randazzo was suspected of being an informant. He was the son on old time “mustache” Vincenzo Randazzo but a rat’s a rat, so they lured him to a parking lot and shot him to death.

October 20, 1993 – in the last but certainly not the least killing directly related to the war, then current underboss Joseph Scopo is shot to death in front of his Ozone Park home as he returns from dinner with his nephew and a friend, both associates of the Family. The newly installed Orena faction underboss never saw it coming. Several young Persico wannabes looking to score points with the Persico faction ran up on Scopo’s car as they pulled to the curb and opened fire with a Mac-10 submachine gun. Scopo was killed instantly and the other occupants Angelo Marrone and Dominick Logazzo were wounded.

Joseph Scopo

This will be the last killing and the closing salvo in a bloody war that played out over several years, cost a score of lives, and accomplished absolutely nothing except tear the very fabric of the Family apart and led to the jailing of dozens upon dozens of made members and key associates. Better than half the borgata was imprisoned.

Several years would pass quietly. The Persico faction had won the war but had paid a very heavy price in that so many of their men had been killed or jailed for decades as fallout from the deadly conflict. They stabilized the borgata the best they could, sending out word that they felt “bygones were bygones” and they wanted all soldiers and key associates to “re-pledge” their loyalty to Carmine Persico, his newly installed son Alphonse (Little Allie Boy), and the entire remaining Persico hierarchy.

Many came in and did just that. But even more refused, fearful now that the Persicos were back in power, they would seek retribution for the killing of their loyalists and the betrayal by those who’d sided with Victor Orena and his supporters.

A smattering of those who were apprehensive to return to the Family fold included:

• Vincent (Schwartzie) Cascio

• Ralph Scopo Jr.

• William (Billy Fingers) Cutolo

• Joseph (Joe Campy) Campanella

• Frank (Frank Campy) Campanella

• Robert Donofrio

• Frank (Chickie) Leto

• Angelo Leto

• Frank (Frankie Camp) Campione

• Anthony Colombo

• Joseph Colombo Jr.

• Vincent Colombo

• James (Jimmy Brown) Clemenza Jr.

• Gerard (Jerry Brown) Clemenza

…to name but a few of dozens who initially chose to sit on the sidelines, and “eyeball the game” so to speak.

In time, many former Orena supporters realigned and were absorbed within the newly organized regimes headed by the staunch Persico loyalists who’d been elevated to “capo” status. Many other soldiers chose to just “retire” and stay away. Especially veteran mafiosi who were wealthy and already in their sixties, seventies or older. What did they need any of it for? They did their own thing, just backing up and relocating to Florida or elsewhere.

There were still others who would stay active in the streets such as the Clemenza brothers and Colombo brothers, who although having been “shelved” several years earlier, didn’t give a good fuck and maintained completely separate crews of associates and a few “good fellows” who they’d grown up with and were partnered with in the rackets.

It made for a very fractured borgata at best, or what passed for a borgata. From a once proud and vibrant Family who boasted 150 members strong with hundreds more vital associates at their zenith, the Colombo Family had been reduced to maybe three to four dozen members at best, all fighting and scrapping over the same bone.

The wanton killings through the decades had thinned their ranks. So had the intense law enforcement pressure which resulted in scores of arrests, convictions and resultant decades-long prison sentences handed down. Additionally, the dozens of stool pigeons it created, and the legions of important members and associates who ran for the hills and greener pastures all contributed to a serious depleting of the ranks that reduced the Family to a shell of its former self.

Alphonse (Little Allie Boy) Persico

Despite all of the above, Carmine’s son Allie Boy finally got paroled and hit the street. He immediately set about reconstituting the Family membership. Carmine had Allie soon put out feelers and offered an “olive branch” to key soldiers who had been opponents of he and his father in the war, doing his best to show that there were no hard feelings to be had. That as a member of the younger generation, he was more open and understanding than his father had been, and levelheadedly understood why the war had been fought in the first place, and the discontentment behind the conflict.

Allie’s strategy largely worked. To further bolster the troops back and placate former Orena sympathizers who the Persico’s knew still existed, Allie Boy went ahead and named a former key Orena supporter as his number #2, his underboss. A very important position indeed.

William (Wild Bill) Cutolo was a unique choice to say the least. His appointment to underboss from a lowly soldier, especially after having been knocked down from “capo” was initially viewed with skepticism by some (the more savvy and veteran of the rank and file smelled a rat), but later welcomed by many that felt

Allie Boy Persico was truly out to mend “mob fences”, so to speak. Many viewed it that he and his father were trying to truly balance the power and influence in the Family so that all factions would finally feel included and have a future say in Family politics.

…Not quite, Alphonse Persico was his father’s son, and as the old saying goes, the fruit didn’t fall far from the mafia tree. The machinations of Niccolo Machiavelli at his finest as it turned out.

Several months after his new appointment to underboss, Billy was now really feeling his oats and conducting business as usual. Cutolo was a well established hoodlum, having developed a large shylock “book”, more than a few businesses who regularly paid him a “protection” envelope, in addition to his labor union activities and racket schemes as a top official of Local # 400 of the Production Workers Union (Independent), a former Franzese controlled union that had become a Colombo Family asset entrusted to Cutolo. He also held ownership interests in a local Brooklyn hotel and a few other small businesses run by his minions.

William (Wild Bill) Cutolo

One sunny afternoon he was summoned to a spur of the moment administration meeting with Allie Boy. Like the good mob soldato that he was, Billy dropped his other scheduled meetings for the day and set about surreptitiously to coordinate “dry cleaning” himself before this sensitive meeting with the boss.

While watching his rearview mirror, he repeatedly made needless right turns, sped through red lights and performed other tactical maneuvers to insure he wasn’t being followed by law enforcement. Once he was comfortable he was “clean”, Billy then proceeded on to the clandestine location provided him for the meeting with his “blood brother” Allie Boy Persico, parked his car and was driven to the meet.

…William (Wild Bill) Cutolo was never seen again. He seemingly just disappeared off the streets of Brooklyn…off the earth for that matter. It would be years before his wife and children, and the underworld in general found out what became of him.

Of course, almost immediately everybody knew the reality. That in fact Cutolo had been “whacked out” as they say in mob vernacular. Many of the old timers even said “I told you so”.

In fact, common talk amongst many a mobster was wondering how Billy could have been so foolish as to have fallen for Persico’s ploy in the first place. For a supposedly street savvy mobster with decades of street experience under his belt, many found it hard to believe he could be so stupid and naive to believe his lofty appointment was sincere.

It’s thought that Cutolo was being fitted for a coffin from day one, and that his appointment to underboss was a time-honored mafia ploy to draw your target in close, to put him to “sleep” and at ease so to speak, and to keep him on tap. So that when the right moment came, he could easily be drawn in for the kill.

The “plum” of becoming underboss of the Family, was just too good to pass up for Billy Cutolo. Whatever reservations or hesitations he may have felt quickly melted away when his ego was stroked by the Persico’s with that lofty appointment…and that was that. “Another dead soldier” as they say in the street.

Based on informant tips, nine years later in 2008, police unearthed Cutolo’s body from a makeshift grave in Farmingdale, Long Island. Persico soldiers Joseph (Joe Caves) Competiello, Sebastian (Sebby) Saracino, capo Dino Calabro, and others had “flipped” and provided a wealth of information about the Cutolo murder, among others.

Fast forwarding to the New York underworld of 2020, nearly 20 years later, the Colombo Family of LCN is largely an unrecognizable entity.

They say that being a Monday morning quarterback is the easiest position to play. So, let’s take a look back and evaluate the landscape now that nearly all the smoke has cleared.

The list of the Colombo Family’s most important members who are currently in prison, or have already served decades behind bars with more to go is very long, easily running into many dozens. Additionally, the number of “good fellows” who have died behind bars while serving these sentences over the years is equally overwhelming.

Little Vic under arrest.

The heady days of capable, diehard mafiosi who had been well-groomed by the very best of their lot to lead the troops are long gone. Men who knew the rules and decorum of Cosa Nostra to the letter. Giuseppe Profaci, Giuseppe Magliocco, Salvatore Mussachio, Enrico Fontana, Salvatore Profaci, Sebastiano Aloi, Vincenzo Aloi, Joseph Colombo, Carmine Persico, John Franzese, Alphonse Persico….and many others of their ilk are no more.

The lucrative rackets the Italian mob once controlled are consigned to underworld history as well: alcohol bootlegging, counterfeiting, numbers and policy rackets, illegal casino operations, horse bookmaking-fixed horse races and prize fights, vast control over labor unions, and the big four – Teamsters, Longshoremen, Laborers and Bartenders Internationals – alien and narcotics smuggling, credit card rackets, stolen and counterfeit securities, Las Vegas casino skimming….etc., etc.

Rats and informants? The list of formally inducted Colombo Family members alone numbers almost 20 men. Fully initiated members in a rank and file that at its peak in the 1950’s had only 150 members, and in current decades numbered closer to 120. One is one too many! But 20 is a huge percentage by anyone’s yardstick. If we add in the important associate members, the total easily exceeds 40 to 50 top mafiosi that have flipped in the Colombo Family alone. The number of “made” men who “went bad” is up to almost 100 when all Five Families is considered.

As for the current membership still out there “on the streets” actively operating, it’s equally dismal. They number maybe thirty to forty at best. Of those current mafiosi strutting around wearing a “badge” proclaiming their “goodfella” status, the vast majority of them are brokesters, “Tapioca” as we say in the business… They are bankrupt, both between their ears and their pockets.

Today’s “made men” are a far cry from the quality of member the leadership groomed for induction years ago. Despite their induction, they are “green” to “The Life”.

Most are very young. They haven’t been out there long enough to have garnered the street knowledge needed to establish their credentials to even deserve their “button”. The vast majority are ignorant, not only of a higher education which typically was never a high priority for a knockaround guy to begin with. But also they are devoid of basic intelligence.

Low IQ’s are mostly the state of affairs today whereas in the days of old, many mafiosi were very, very intelligent people, who either never had the opportunity to go to school such as a Frank Costello or Lucky Luciano, or chose not to because of the vast opportunities waiting for them in the streets.

Today, there are so many lucrative opportunities to go into legitimate businesses or the professions that usually only the lower dregs are drawn to the rackets. There is no need for any normal, intelligent young Italian guy (or any other ethnicity for that matter) to go that way.

The quality of the guys drawn to “The Life” today is clearly evident in the Five Families, the Colombo crew included. The old-timers know it to, and try to have little to do with the younger element. It is a dead end street!!

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