By The Other Guy | July 12, 2020
Frank (Frankie the Bug) Sciortino – aka “Little Frankie”- was born on April 4, 1932, in Brooklyn’s East New York section to Salvatore and Agnes Sciortino. He married young, and by the mid-1950s had relocated his wife and kids out to 1659 Stewart Avenue in New Hyde Park section of Queens.
By 1960, he had moved again to 66 South Bay Avenue, a waterfront neighborhood in Massapequa on Long Island.
With his continued success, by the early-1980’s he again relocated his brood but this time to Nassau County’s Gold Coast community of Brookville. He purchased a beautiful stone and brick longline ranch at 18 Ormond Park Drive, situated on two acres. This is where he would reside for the rest of his life.
The way Sciortino acquired his nickname was twofold. He was very small in stature at approximately 5-foot 3-inches tall and weighing 130-pounds. But also because in his younger days while coming up in the underworld his wild antics led his friends to jokingly call him a “bug job”. A mob moniker that would fit him well.
He had thinning dark-brown hair receded in front, brown eyes and soft-round features that often deceived people who met him. Coupled with his small stature and easy demeanor, it belied his position as a potentially dangerous guy.
Over the course of his mob career he was picked up numerous times on a litany of charges, not the least of which was the 1966 shooting of the Bridgeport, Connecticut discount house treasurer for Bankruptcy Sales, Inc., who Frankie shot in the neck in a hijack-shylock money dispute that obviously got out of hand.
An all-points police bulletin was put out on him almost immediately thereafter…Little Frankie was a character indeed!
As a young man, he listed his job as working in automobile sales in Brooklyn. By the age of 25 years old he was employed as a used-car salesmen at a Nassau County car lot.
He was arrested there in 1957 for extortion, felonious assault and possession of a .25 caliber handgun after another man swore out a criminal complaint that Frankie had pulled out a gun and threatened his life in a loan dispute.
He started out as a mob associate of several crews in Brooklyn but would form a lifelong connection to the Brooklyn based borgata of Joe Profaci. In later years this group would become better known as the Joseph Colombo Family.
Because of an early friendship with Bonanno capo Nicholas (Nick the Battler) DeStefano, he was often misidentified as an affiliate of that Family by the authorities and the daily newspapers.
But in truth, he was originally close to senior Gambino capo Ettore (Terry) Zappi, who Sciortino would eventually become a neighbor of, and who was the one to encourage him to move out to the Island. Zappi helped him find the home in Massapequa, and the financing required for the down payment.
By the 1950s he was firmly allied with the Profaci/Colombo crew as an associate. He operated under Anthony (Tony the Gawk) Augello, a notorious soldier serving within Long Island’s Franzese regime, one of the deadliest factions of that Family.
Through the years the FBI officially listed Sciortino as an “inducted” soldier, and authorities said he served alternately in the regimes of Sonny Franzese, capo Pasquale (Patty) Amato, Victor Orena Sr., and in his later years under Vic Orena Jr.
In 1969, Sciortino was nabbed with two associates for operating what Suffolk County prosecutors called a charity fraud scheme since 1967. Operating the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Fund of Babylon, they were accused of selling tickets for a phony raffle that offered tickets for non-existent grand prizes.
Also in 1969, as though Frankie didn’t already have his hands full fighting the fraud case, he was picked up by Nassau Rackets Squad detectives for threats he had made to the owner of an area diner.
In a failed attempt to secure the diner location as a “stop” for a carting firm he owned, The Bug had warned diner owner George Doukas that his property would be damaged, and his eatery burned to the ground unless he acquiesced to Sciortino’s demands to hire Star Carting as his garbage hauler. Frankie the Bug was subsequently charged with attempted coercion and extortion. He faced 11 years in prison for that little foray.
While out on double bail in the charity fraud and garbage coercion-extortion cases, he was arrested again in 1970, this time with Tony the Gawk for receiving a tractor-trailer load that was hijacked back in 1965 which contained a shipment of garments stolen in interstate commerce. Going over state lines made it a federal offense, bringing in the FBI.
After several weeks of surveillance, the Suffolk District Attorney’s Rackets Squad working in conjunction with federal authorities moved in, nabbing all the hijackers at a “drop” they operated at a warehouse and garbage-truck depot in Commack, Long Island.
In 1965, the very first arrests related to this case for criminally receiving $26,000 in hijacked goods had been lodged against Angelo Garofalo and his brother Vincent. They were well-known garbage racketeers on the Island, and suspected mob associates.
The Garofalo brothers were soon outon bail. Within a few years (in 1970), Sciortino and Augello, as well as another Colombo hood and convicted hijacker by the name of Joseph (Joe Red) Conigliaro, got swooped up on a federal arrest warrant by the FBI for the hijacking of the same shipment.
They were each charged with the federal crimes of theft of an interstate shipment, criminally receiving stolen goods and conspiracy. Sciortino was held on a high $50,000 bail. Augello was already behind bars serving a jail sentence on other charges.
It seems that both Garofalo brothers had quietly turned rat shortly after their arrests in 1965, but their cases were put on the shelf with a series of supposed long “legal delays” without them coming to trial or a final court disposition… it was because they had both “flipped” to the government and had been working to reduce their penalties by providing information to Suffolk and federal law enforcement about organized crime on the Island.
After a short trial, with Fat Angelo (450-plus pounds of rat meat) and his scumbag brother Vinny the garbage man testifying for the prosecution, both defendants were quickly convicted.
The case would be drawn out by“The Bug and The Gawk’s” lawyers until all appeals were exhausted, then they both rolled it up and went into the can. They had faced 20 years in prison. I believe Augello and Sciortino got sentenced to 7.5-15 years, and 5 years respectively.
Somewhere along the line Sciortino befriended an up and coming soldier named Vito (Little Vic) Orena. They would form a close bond, working in tandem over the years in a variety of racket schemes. Sciortino would eventually “officially” affiliate with Orena, becoming a member of his personal crew.
By the mid-1980’s they would grab hold of Long Island’s vast newly organized bootleg-gasoline rackets. The gas-tax evasion scheme was originated by the crew headed by iconic capo/underboss John (Sonny) Franzese. Orena and Sciortino quickly filled a void left after Franzese, his son, and many crew associates had been jailed on racketeering charges.
The feds had successfully busted up the Franzese daisy-chain network of cooperating front “shell” companies needed to help facilitate the gas scheme. Federal officials later said that Sciortino and Orena were two of several mafiosi from several of New York’s borgatas to see the potential and grab hold of a mostly already established fraud network, and then ran with it.
They glommed most loose ends before other Families could move in, with Frankie serving as the designated Colombo Family pointman.-Side note: it couldn’t have come at a better time for Sciortino, who’d only been released from prison a few short years earlier. He was always a good earner, but after doing years in stir he had depleted his bankroll considerably.
They reestablished the racket design and groundwork needed for reshuffling hundreds of millions of gallons in tax-deferred, untax-paid petroleum so as to confuse the IRS taxmen, successfully skimming all tax profits instead of declaring the revenue collected and forwarding the tax debt into the government… As they say in the vernacular “the rest is history!”
Several wholesale gasoline distribution companies were then utilized by the Orena faction of the Colombo Family to dominate the petroleum industry throughout the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
This multimillion-dollar racket network brought in untold millions in profits to four of the cities five borgata’s, but a first among equals was the Colombo Family headed by boss Carmine (The Snake) Persico and his troops.
Side Note: The fifth borgata, that of the Bonanno’s was barred from participating in the scheme by the Commission, who had earlier declared them “persona non grata.” A designation that would hold for some years to come.
The result was within weeks of their coup, hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits were again pouring into the Colombo coffers weekly. Only this time much of it was flowing into Frankie the Bug’s pockets and that of his partner and direct superior Little Vic Orena.
The Bug also became the liaison man between the Colombo “brigade” and the point men assigned to handle the gas rackets in the other three families.
Men like Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso of the Lucchese’s, Anthony (Fat Tony) Morelli and his partner Anthony (Tony Pep) Trentacosta for the Gambino’s, and Joseph (Joe Glitz) Galizia for the Genovese…the mafia essentially formed a “gas rackets panel” of soldiers who were “specialists” for their respective mob Family.
The result was a massive criminal conspiracy generating money the likes of which hadn’t been seen by law enforcement since the 1920’s Prohibition era. It would make Sciortino a millionaire many times over. And a very popular guy within the Colombo hierarchy.
In addition to gas-tax bootlegging, Frankie the Bug was a very active hoodlum who engaged in a wide range of other rackets to earn over the years; policy, card games, shylocking, strong-arm tactics, extortion, labor shakedowns, garbage racketeering, truck hijackings, and frauds.
He had a police file that spanned forty years and included over fifteen arrests on such serious charges as:
-1952 – attempted assault
-1954 – felonious assault
-1955 – grand larceny
-1957 – possession of a gun, felonious assault, and attempted extortion
-1966 – assault with intent to commit murder
-1969 – felony possession of dangerous weapons (6 handguns)
-1969 – attempted coercion, and attempted extortion
-1969 – conspiracy, grand larceny (charity fraud), promoting gambling, falsifying business records
-1969 – federal liquor law violations
-1970 – truck hijacking, and grand larceny
-1979 – racketeering and RICOconspiracy
-1990 – grand larceny, wire fraud, gasoline sales-tax evasion and conspiracy
-1990 – labor extortion, and RICOo conspiracy
-1993 – murder, and conspiracy to commit murder
-1995 – illegal possession of multiple firearms by a felon
….He served numerous prison terms on convictions stemming from the above arrests, which aggregated to over 20 years behind bars.
In addition to his racket operations, Sciortino was always interested in legitimate business. Over the decades he held ownership, or was a partner in numerous businesses to put his racket profits to work. Listed among them were:
• The Chateaubriand Restaurant and Lounge, in New Hyde Park, NY
• Star Carting Co., a private garbage disposal firm based on Denton Avenue in New Hyde Park
• The Colonial Inn, a large hotel-motel, and several other large motel complexes and properties down in South Carolina and the Daytona Beach, Florida areas.
• He also had extensive real estate holdings on Long Island, Manhattan, South Carolina, and South Florida.
By the late 1980’s, and again in 1991, Sciortino had been indicted in relation to the gasoline tax-evasion scam, and a separate shakedown and labor-extortion racket he perpetrated with his partner Vic Orena against air-freight companies operating inside JFK InternationalAirport in Jamaica, Queens.
Side Note: By 1987 Orena had been elevated by the imprisoned Persico to lead the Colombo troops as it’s “acting boss”.
The FBI coordinated early morning raids against twenty suspects. These included top members and associates of the Colombo and Lucchese crime Families. A group of Israeli racketeers who they worked in tandem with, and were subservient to the Italians were also grabbed in the counties of Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.
Among the suspects seized that morning besides Sciortino was associate Frank Campione, capo Victor (Vic Jr) Orena – son of Little Vic, soldier Joseph (Chubby) Audino, and 14 members of the Russian-Jewish mob.
Side Note: In essence the Colombo Family was actually “shaking down” the Russian-Jewish racketeers for 1.5 cents per gallon of gasoline they sold for the right to operate in mafia controlled territory.
Sciortino was nabbed by two teamsof federal agents who descended on his Brookville compound just as he and another mobster, future soldier Frank (Frankie Camp) Campione, were leaving in Campione’s Cadillac with Frank behind the wheel.
Agents dragged the men out of the automobile at gunpoint, threw them to the ground while frisking them for weapons, then cuffed them and hauled them away to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn by the old Bush Terminals to await arraignment…it was over in seconds.
Sciortino and Campione were charged with various RICO counts of conspiracy, racketeering, wire fraud, mail fraud, sales excise tax and income tax evasion, and grand larceny.
They joined a small cadre of hoodlum associates also nabbed that morning. Prosecutors charged the mobsters had evaded a whopping $34-million in gasoline excise taxes by skimming .14 cents off every gallon of gasoline sold over three years by operating a complex “daisy chain” of fictitious companies that had disguised the final destination of the fuel and the taxes due. They each faced up to 30 years in prison.
They were initially held in high bail by prosecutors who said they were dangers to the community. But most defendants would eventually make bail.
After reviewing the indictment and discovery papers the wiseguys realized that the feds had them dead to rights. They all pled out, with Sciortino receiving 60 months and Orena Jr. 51 months in federal prison. Campione took 30 months. The others got similar terms.
Side Note: The feds also confiscated $1.7 million that was hidden in safety deposit boxes, $1.2 million from public bank accounts, $1 million in a stockpile supply of gasoline, and a luxurious yacht valued at $500,000.
While The Bug was still out on bail at home awaiting his surrender to prison, he got indicted again. This time it was for a major Colombo Family extortion racket directed at air-freight companies at JFK Airport.
Charged with extorting $200,000 from three Kennedy Airport freight-forwarding firms from 1983 to 1985. Federal Strike Force prosecutors successfully argued that Sciortino and his associate Frankie Cammarano were dangers to the community and should be denied bail. Sciortino was also specifically charged with threatening a potential witness with violence if he testified against him.
Cammarano eventually got out on $50,000 bail, but Sciortino was detained without bail as a dangerous felon and organized crime leader. They would both end up pleading out, with Sciortino getting more years added to his previous plea agreement with prosecutors.
Side Story: On May 2, 1989, a mob-linked Brooklyn businessman named Michael Markowitz was shot to death as he drove down a Mill Basin street in his sparkling new Rolls-Royce. As his car smashed into two parked ones, the forty-three-year-old Markowitz had staggered out of the driver’s side door and collapsed to the pavement. He was “dead on arrival”, (DOA) to the hospital.
A notorious Russian born gasoline wholesaler, Markowitz had pled guilty to evading Federal, New York State, and Florida excise and sales taxes. He had agreed to repay $5,000,000 and was subsequently sentenced to a mere six-months house arrest, and five years probation afterward.
As part of his plea agreement, he had secretly cooperated with federal prosecutors investigating gasoline bootlegging and tax evasion by the mafia.
Another Brooklyn gas distributor named Philip Moscowitz was strangled back in 1987, after he was also suspected of having become a rat.
Fast forward to 1993. Frank the Bug was quietly serving the multiple prison sentences imposed on him earlier. Doing “good time” in the federal penitentiary with other wiseguys when one day, federal agents came and hauled him out, flying him back to New York City for arraignment on a new case…and a very serious case at that!
He was charged with the contract murder of Russian Jewish racketeer Mike Markowitz back in Brooklyn in 1989. Prosecutors alleged that Sciortino orchestrated the gangland killing at the behest of his superiors in the Colombo mob, who had suspected Markowitz of being an informer.
The prevailing theory was that Frankie the Bug had used several of his young crew associates to shoot Markowitz twice in the head and chest to insure his silence, so as to protect everybody from future arrest. He faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted.
Of course, prosecutors prayed that Sciortino would fold, “roll over” and play ball with the government. That would have enabled the feds to take down many more key members of the Italian mob once and for all….but if that was their hopes and plans, they were sadly mistaken.
Frankie the Bug Sciortino held strong. And although they did their best to sweat him for many months, the case against Sciortino was not strong, and eventually the feds were forced to drop their prosecution against him…Frankie got very lucky with that one!
Frank Sciortino was finally released from federal prison in 1999. He had served almost 11 years on this last go around. He returned to his loving family, and did his best to maintain a low profile. Frankie still had “federal paper” with several years worth of parole. So he avoided mob figures, and mob watering holes alike.
He would get to spend the next 20 years operating his legitimate businesses and enjoying life on his bucolic sprawling Brookville estate, surrounded by his devoted wife, daughters, son, and grandchildren.
Like so many others in New York and across the country in recent months, he contracted Coronavirus. At 88 years of age, a frail and elderly Frank Sciortino succumbed to this deadly scourge of a disease within several days of contracting it. He died on April 23, 2020.
What a lifetime in New York’s underworld rubbing shoulders with New York’s most deadly mafiosi could not do to him, an invisible deadly little bug did.
“The Bug” was done in by THE bug. RIP Frankie!
This article was originally posted “here“