April 24, 2022 — Longtime Springfield (MA) mafia enforcer Rex Cunningham is once again in a pinch with Uncle Sam for alleged extortion.
Cunningham, 71, pleaded not guilty this past week to state charges of extortion, witness intimidation and threat to do bodily harm, from an incident earlier in the week where the notorious Genovese crime family strong arm threatened to murder a tenant at a piece of property owned by his girlfriend over slights to her and others and his failure to square up a $600 debt. He’s free on bond awaiting trial.
Back in 2017, Cunningham was nailed by the state for running loan sharking and bookmaking operations from a pair of Western Massachusetts taverns and spent a year in prison. He did almost 20 years behind bars in a federal correctional facility for a 1992 racketeering and extortion conviction tied to the Scibelli brothers’ mob regime out of Springfield’s South End. The Springfield mob crew traditionally reports to the Genovese family in New York City.
On April 19, Cunningham was recorded telling a tenant at his girlfriend’s East Longmeadow apartment complex that he was treading on thin ice.
“Now, let’s get a few things straight. You stop being a fucking wiseguy. You be disrespectful to these girls again, I’ll break every bone in your fucking body. You call the cops, you call whoever the fuck you want, but that’s what’s going to happen. Don’t say another word. I’ll take you’re fucking head off right fucking here.”
Broad shouldered with greying hair and still sporting his trademark van dyke-style goatee, Cunningham is half-Irish and half-Italian and the nephew of retired Springfield mafia lieutenant Mario Fiore. Today, at 86, Fiore is out of the rackets. Him and his nephew both worked for Frank (Frankie Sky Ball) Scibelli and his two brothers, “Turk” and “Baba” in the 1980s and 1990s. “Frankie Sky Ball” Scibelli died in 2000.
Cunningham’s name is steeped in Western Massachusetts’ gangland lore. His name is synonymous with ruthless debt-collection methods far and wide along the east coast: he was once caught on a wire recalling stalking a debtor to a wake in order to assault him.
“Oh yeah, well I got ’em, his sister died. we sat outside the wake. That’s where I got ’em. I went myself because, I prefer that. I sat outside the wake. I followed him, a perfect tail. Followed him and as he got out of the car, I grabbed him and threw him outta of the fucking car. I took him behind the Gaslight (Lounge). Had three guys waiting there, we beat him with fucking pipes, tire irons. I dropped his car keys on his chest. I told him we just beat your ass. And I said I’ll call an ambulance for you. We left him bleeding all over the place….When he got out of the car at first, I said to him the bad news is, I said, the bad news is this aint no meeting like I told you. And I said nobody’s here but me and I’m gonna beat your ass. Then I smashed him in the face and he went down and them three guys come out from behind a dumpster a couple minutes later. And I backed off and I said, ‘one guy at a time and don’t hit him in the head’. He went down pretty quick and he didn’t wake up ’til the next week”
In an interview with local mob expert Stephanie Barry of MassLive in 2011, Cunningham discussed the good ole’ days compared to the modern-day mob landscape in Springfield.
“We had a tough group of guys…..if you did something wrong you took a beating,” he said. “There’s still money on the street. Everyone is still taking bets, but it’s a free for all….its’ a viper’s nest of snakes and rats.”
This article was originally posted here