Author: About The Mafia

Anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri ready for ‘historic” mafia trial.

For years anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, 62, has been preparing for an upcoming ‘historic’ trial against Italy’s infamous ‘Ndrangheta. Gathering together an enormous amount of evidence against hundreds of suspects.

The first round of this court battle happened on Friday at a preliminary hearing in Rome. A case like this has not been seen since the “Maxiprocesso” trial in the mid-1980s against the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.

For three decades Gratteri has been under strict police protection because of the dangerous work he does. He lives in the southern Italian town and ‘Ndrangheta stronghold of Catanzaro and receives death threats on a regular basis. Gratteri’s police protection is now more important than ever as he hopes to convict over 450 suspected clan members for belonging to a ruthless criminal organization known for money laundering, extortion, drug-trafficking, kidnapping, and many turf wars. They are also Italy’s only mafia organization that is active on every continent.

'Ndrangheta Logo

Hundreds ‘Ndrangheta members are about to go on trial.

After the conclusion of Friday’s preliminary hearing in Rome, Gratteri commented saying, “It’s a war. We are talking about violence, about death”.

Gratteri says he described the case as “historic” because he firmly believes this will be Italy’s most important court battle against the mafia since the “Maxi” trial which concluded with the convictions of hundreds of Cosa Nostra members. That trial was tainted with violence though, including the 1992 murder of the prosecuting magistrate Giovanni Falcone, his wife, and three police officers.

A fortified courthouse is currently under construction in Calabria, and once finished and the formalities wrap up in Rome, the hearings will move there where it is expected there will be at least 600 lawyers and 200 civil parties participating.

Most of the suspects on trial were arrested in December in what was one of the biggest police raids on the ‘Ndrangheta in many years capturing bosses, underbosses, and soldiers.

Italian anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri says he is more than ready for the trial against hundreds of 'Ndrangheta members.

Italian anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri says he is more than ready for the trial against hundreds of ‘Ndrangheta members.

The raids also extended as far as Bulgaria, Germany, and Switzerland and, among others, resulted in the arrest of the boss of the Calabrian mayors association and a member of parliament.

The charges range from loansharking to murder with special circumstances under Italy’s Article 416-bis criminal code which makes it illegal to associate with or be a member of any part of a mafia-style organization.

For a long time, the ‘Ndrangheta were thought of as inferior to other gangs such as the Camorra and La Cosa Nostra, but over time they have exceeded them to become Italy’s most powerful criminal organization.

Nowadays the ‘Ndrangheta control a significant portion of the world’s narcotics trafficking with an especially strong grip in Colombia, New York, and Brazil. They are also heavily involved in the construction industry and even funeral contracts which is a booming business at the moment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Gratteri, the ‘Ndrangheta is “much feared for its ferocity and its cruelty. Yet at the same time, it is very modern — and ready to flood Europe’s markets with tons of narcotics”.

Italian authorities estimate there are about 20,000 ‘Ndrangheta members around the world and the organization has an annual revenue of more than $59 billion.

Although the arrests and upcoming trial have been a significant blow to the ‘Ndrangheta, it will not have the same impact as the 1986 Palermo-based Maxi trial.

Maxi Trial courtroom with room for 1,000 lawyers and cages along the back wall for the many defendants.

Maxi Trial courtroom with room for 1,000 lawyers and cages along the back wall for the many defendants.

“During the Cosa Nostra Maxi trial they brought down the heads of all the major families, in this operation it is not the case,” said criminologist Anna Sergi, an associate professor at the University of Essex. “Some major people… will go on trial but I would not go and say that this will have the same significance, should they all be jailed.”

Cages along the back wall of the Maxi Trial courtroom.

Cages along the back wall of the Maxi Trial courtroom.

Gratteri doesn’t expect to rid Italy of the mafia but hopes to significantly reduce its membership and business dealings. Quoting the late judge Falcone, Gratteri said “The mafias are not external bodies to our otherwise well-functioning society, they are the mirror of our functioning”.

“Italy is unable to admit it, it makes an enemy of it, forgetting that the mafia is part of who we are. “In each of us there is a little ‘Ndranghetist”.

This article was originally posted “here

Former mob boss bites off and swallows prison guard’s finger

Giuseppe Fanara, 60, a former member of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra has bitten off and swallowed a prison guard’s finger.

Fanara, who is serving a life sentence at Italy’s Rebibbia prison in Rome, was supposedly so upset that his prison cell was being inspected, bit off and swallowed the guard’s pinky finger.

Fanara, whose new nickname no doubt will be “The Cannibal”, is currently nine years into a life sentence under a special penal code that is only used for mob bosses to prevent them from running their organization’s from behind bars.

A leading Italian newspaper reported that “During the altercation, the prisoner bit off the guard’s little finger on his right hand. The finger disappeared, leading a Rome prosecutor to conclude it had been eaten.”

It is reported that Fanara then forcefully charged at six other guards using a broom as a weapon while shouting “I’ll slit your throats like pigs”.

Since the incident, Fanara has been transferred to Sassari Prison, a high-security facility in Sardinia. There he will face new charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest. Additional charges may be forthcoming.

Fanara was arrested in 1999 after police raided a mob conference. At the time, Fanara was on the run for his part in the murder of an investigator, Giuliano Guazzalli. Fanara and his accomplices opened fire using machine guns on a vehicle Guazzelli was riding in.

This article was originally posted “here

Former Canadian West End Gang member Ron “Big Ronnie” Mckinnon, 60, has died of cancer

Former Canadian West End Gang member Ron “Big Ronnie” Mckinnon, 60, has died of cancer. Mckinnon was an enforcer in Quebec for the “Irish Gang” for 25 years, though he has not been involved in the gang or organized crime for at least a decade.

Mckinnon used to work as a bodyguard for West End Gang member Johnny McLean, a suspected government informant and protégé of the gang leaders, the Matticks brothers. The last remaining Matticks sibling, Gerry Matticks, accused McLean of causing his drug arrest in 2001.

An attempt was made on Mckinnon’s life when he was shot in the leg by masked attackers. Mckinnon was convinced he was sent by the Matticks brothers to murder him because of his close relationship with McLean. In fact, many people believe that the perpetrators were brothers Cody and Jamie Laramee. In the summer of 2013, the Laramee brothers were murdered inside the Nite Night Lounge in Montreal.

This article was originally posted “here

Lucchese family underboss Steven Crea sentenced to life in prison.

Lucchese crime family underboss Steven “Wonder Boy” Crea, 73, was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for murder and racketeering.

Crea and 18 other ‘made men’, associates, and other Westchester, NY residents were sentenced by for their crimes of murder, attempted murder, assault, extortion, defrauding a hospital, drug trafficking, loansharking, and illegal gambling that took place between 2000 and 2017.

Lucchese crime family underboss Steven “Wonder Boy” Crea, 73, was sentenced to life in prison for murder and racketeering.

Lucchese crime family underboss Steven “Wonder Boy” Crea, 73, was sentenced to life in prison for murder and racketeering.

Another trial last year which lasted six weeks, also found Crea, Matthew Madonna, 84, of the Bronx, Christopher Londonio, 46, of Hartsdale, and Terrence Caldwell, 62, of Manhattan, guilty of the 2013 murder of Michael Meldish, 62.

The killing was ordered by Madonna and Crea for the disrespect of Meldish by him not collecting debts owed to the boss. Meldish was no saint however as he was suspected of carrying out over a dozen gang murders.

The hit was executed by Caldwell and Londonio in the Bronx on a quiet residential street.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel ordered Crea to forfeit $1 million for his felonies and pay a $400,000 fine.

Last month, Madonna, Londonio, and Caldwell were sentenced to life in prison.

Previously sentenced were:

Crea’s son, Steven D. Crea, 48, New Rochelle, conspiracy to commit murder, 13 years in prison;
Paul Cassano, 41, Yonkers, conspiracy to commit assault, 18 months in prison;
Robert Camilli, 63, Briarcliff Manor, extortionate extension of credit, one year supervised release;
John Incatasciato, 45, Elmsford, extortionate extension of credit, two years supervised release;
Joseph Venice, 59, Yonkers, racketeering conspiracy, 18 months.

This article was originally posted “here

End of the Road for Mobster Frank Cullotta, Dead at 81

Mobster turned rat Frank Cullotta has died Thursday morning at the age of 81.

Cullotta was friends and right-hand man of mob boss Tony “The Ant” Spilotro since they were both teenagers in Chicago carrying out burglaries and murder.

In 1979 Cullotta moved to Las Vegas to join Spilotro, who had been there since 1971 taking care of the Chicago mafia’s business interests. Eventually, Cullotta took charge of Spilotro’s “Hole in the Wall Gang” who carried out many high-end burglaries.

In October 1979, Cullotta murdered his friend and grand jury witness Sherwin “Jerry” Lisner. Cullotta suspected him of informing on a money exchange scam the two of them were working on together. It wasn’t until later on, after Cullotta became an informant himself, that he admitted killing Lisner on orders from Tony Spilotro.

Spilotro was on top of the world running Vegas street rackets in the 1970s and 80s however, things changed on July 4, 1981. This is when the Hole in the Wall Gang decided to rob Bertha’s Gifts & Home Furnishings on East Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas. The robbery was a disaster and most of the gang were arrested including Cullotta. This drove a wedge between Cullotta and Spilotro.

In 1982, Cullotta was eventually sentenced to 8 years in Metropolitan Correctional Center, San Diego. He was paroled after 2 years and directly entered the witness protection program. He left the program after 2 years of moving around on an assumed name.

Frank Cullotta has died at the age of 81

Frank Cullotta

Since then, Cullotta has spoken in interviews about his time with Spilotro most notably in an interview in 2016 that marked 30 years since Spilotro and his brother were found murdered and buried in a cornfield in Indiana.

Cullotta liked to tell stories and was an adviser for the movie “Casino” as well as having a small part in the movie.

He also took part in a Vegas Mob Tour, going around Las Vegas pointing out infamous locations to eager tourists.

Frank Cullotta in 2014 on one of his Vegas Mob Tours.

Frank Cullotta in 2014 on one of his Vegas Mob Tours.

There was also of course his YouTube channel Coffee with Cullotta where he spoke about his time with the mafia. It was on this channel Thursday morning that the show’s host, Adam Flowers broke the news of Cullotta’s death saying that “Cullotta was in the hospital for COVID-19, along with other health conditions”.

Before his death, the Mob Museum was in talks with Cullotta about collaborating on a new museum program. Vice President of Exhibits & Programs, Geoff Schumacher described him as “the living link between Las Vegas and Spilotro”.

This article was originally posted “here

Leonardo Badalamenti, 60, son of ex-mafia boss, Gaetano Badalamenti, arrested

Leonardo Badalamenti, 60, son of top 1970s Sicilian mafia boss, Gaetano Badalamenti, was arrested on Wednesday in Sicily. The Italian police said they were acting on a Brazilian international arrest warrant.

Badalamenti is wanted by the Brazilian government for bank fraud and drug trafficking, crimes he committed in the country using an alias. He has been on the run since 2017.

After his arrest at his mother’s house in the city of Castellammare del Golfo, he was taken to a Palermo prison where he will await extradition.

This is not the first arrest for Leonardo. In 2009 he was arrested in Sao Paulo, Brazil after his thwarted plan to use fake Venezuelan bonds to obtain credit lines totaling $2.2 billion from HSBC Holdings Plc, Bank of America Corp. and unidentified British banks.

His father, Gaetano “Don Tano” Badalamenti, became infamous in the organized crime world after ordering the 1978 hit on Peppino Impastato, an outspoken anti-mafia journalist. He was also the boss of the Sicilian Mafia Commission.

In the 1980s, after a mafia war was started by Salvatore “Toto” Riina and his Corleone clan to assume sole control of organized crime, Don Tano moved his whole family to Brazil.

In 1987, Gaetano Badalamenti was convicted of drug trafficking in the United States in the “Pizza Connection” case. He was sentenced to 45-years in prison where he died in 2004 at the age of 80.

This article was originally posted “here

Salvatore Brunetti, 73, denied early release

New Jersey mobster Salvatore Brunetti, 73, has been denied early release from prison by a federal judge. He was petitioning the court for early release over health concerns related to his age and the pandemic.

In the 1990s, Brunetti was involved in a mob war between factions of the South Jersey-Philadelphia Mafia. He was known to carry a rifle, but his main talent, and the reason he was recruited by the mob in the first place, was bomb-making.

Upon denying his request for early release from his 40-year sentence, the U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney said that although “we appreciate the fear of COVID-19,” this mobster “presents too great a danger of violence to the public.”

The judge did agree however with a statement by the most recent of Brunetti’s three wives, who said he was a “violent person who couldn’t change.”

According to court documents, Brunetti was planning on living with a family member in Cherry Hill, NJ, but it now looks like those plans will have to wait till his originally scheduled release date in 2028.

The court documents also clearly noted Brunetti’s part in the violent summer of 1993 clash between mafia factions led by Joey Merlino and Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa.

Brunetti, formerly a businessman, was recruited by the mob in 1990. He was extremely proficient in the building, testing, and detonating of bombs, particularly pipe bombs.

The documents also stated that “Mr. Brunetti also provided cyanide to kill Merlino and tried to recruit a woman to place cyanide in Merlino’s drink,” and “so he would be able to identify the 12 targets to be murdered,” Brunetti watched a video of them at a funeral.

Brunetti was arrested in March 1994 on federal racketeering charges, and in 1997 was sentenced to 40 years.

Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa, seen in a March 17, 1994 file photo

Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa, seen in a March 17, 1994 file photo.

Although Stanfa and Merlino weren’t killed in the mob war, their nefarious activities eventually caught up with them. Stanfa, 79, was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for, amongst other charges, murder.

In 2001, Merlino, 58, was sentenced to 14 years on federal racketeering charges, then in 2018, he was sentenced to two years in prison on gambling charges. According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, he was released from federal custody on Monday.

The judge also made mention of another violent incident Brunetti was involved in. In 1984 he was convicted of aggravated assault for breaking down his wife’s door and repeatedly hitting and kicking her, leaving her with a fractured spine, broken teeth, and a broken nose.

Brunetti’s petition for early release stated that the 73-year-old inmate has several health issues including “hypertension, coronary artery disease, and eye conditions.” He also stated that a 2018 surgery left him with “shortness of breath.”

103 federal inmates and 1 employee have died from Covid-19. 4,049 federal inmates and employees have tested positive including 38 at the facility Brunetti is being held.

Judge Kearney also noted that “Mr. Brunetti set out to murder on multiple occasions but either did not have the shot or the shot was too risky to take,” referring to Brunetti’s attempted murder of Merlino where he backed out at the last minute because there were “too many people around,” and another attempt to kill Steve Mazzone, an associate of Merlino, which ended in a similar fashion.

Kearney was not impressed that Burnetti did not mention his history of mental illness, substance abuse, or the attack on his former wife. The ruling also noted that “he does not refer to his children.”

The ruling does state that Brunetti’s “recent conduct while incarcerated shows generally good behavior,” however, a 2000 incident where he was found in possession of a shiv, shows “violent tendencies potentially stuck with him through sentencing and into his time in prison.”

This article was originally posted “here

Lucchese Family Acting Boss, Matthew Madonna, 84, Sentenced to Life in Prison

Former acting Lucchese family boss Matthew Madonna and two associates, Christopher Londonio, 46, and Terrence Caldwell, were sentenced to life in prison on Monday. They were found guilty of murdering Michael Meldish, a gang member who refused to help them collect business ‘debts’.

On November 15, 2013, Madonna, 84, ordered a hit on Meldish who was the leader of a notoriously ruthless and violent group called the Purple Gang, a bunch of drug dealers and hitmen working in the Bronx and Upper Manhatten during the 1970s and 80s.

Christopher Londonio was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the murder of Michael Meldish.

Christopher Londonio was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the murder of Michael Meldish.

Londonio was easily able to set up an ambush to kill Meldish as the two were friends. Caldwell shot Meldish in the head while he was sitting in his car on a residential street in the Throgs Neck area of the Bronx. Caldwell immediately fled the scene in a car driven by Londonio.

A statement from Andy Strauss, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York reads:

“Matty Madonna, Christopher Londonio, and Terrence Caldwell – respectively, the Acting Boss, a soldier, and an associate of the Lucchese Family – were responsible for the execution-style murder of Michael Meldish seven years ago. Madonna ordered it, Londonio set it up, and Caldwell pulled the trigger. Now all three have been sentenced to serve the rest of their lives in federal prison”.

Terrence Caldwell was sentenced to life in prison for the 2013 murder of Michael Meldish.

Terrence Caldwell was sentenced to life in prison for the 2013 murder of Michael Meldish.

White Plains Federal Judge Cathy Seibel said about Madonna, “This defendant was the acting head of a murderous organization that terrorized its community. He profited from that. He led that. He knew perfectly well what the members of the enterprise were up to and that the money flowing up to him was not lawfully obtained. This would be a heinous offense even if nobody died. But somebody did die. And this defendant agreed that should happen.”

The judge also expressed regret that the Mafia is still romanticized in popular culture.

One of the five families of La Cosa Nostra, the Lucchese family story reaches back decades starting with their involvement with Harlem street gangs during the 1920s. At the Havana conference in 1951, they were recognized as one of New York City’s “five families”, and the “Commission” was established to oversee the running of the mafia in America.

"The Commission" chart, La Cosa Nostra, 1963. The Lucchese crime family can trace it's American roots back to the 1920s.

“The Commission” chart, La Cosa Nostra, 1963. The Lucchese crime family can trace it’s American roots back to the 1920s.

Madonna took over leadership of the family in 2009. By this time it had expanded its territory beyond the Bronx and Harlem and its clothing and trucking industries. These days, the family is known in New York more for racketeering and illegal gambling.

This article was originally posted “here

Mobster Tony “The Beaver” Ascenzia dead at 61

Tony “The Beaver” Ascenzia, one of the few remaining members of the Grasso crew has died at the age of 61. It is reported that this Connecticut Mafioso suffered a sudden heart attack.

During the 1970s and 80s, Ascenzia ran gambling rackets for the New England Patriarca crime family in the New Haven area, but his luck ran out in 2003 when he was arrested by the feds. It was estimated that through his extensive gambling operation, he was profiting close to $10 million per year. He was released in 2007 after spending three years behind bars.

Before he was arrested, Ascenzia was thinking long term regarding his finances. Through bugs and wiretapping, part of the FBI investigation revealed a discussion he had with his co-defendant Frances Gratta. The recordings were of the two men discussing the feasibility of transferring all their wealth offshore so it would still be there for them after they are released from prison.

Ascenzia was heard saying to Gratta, “We’ll scoop everything and send it out to the Cayman Islands. At least, when we come home, we’ll have something to come back to.”

I get the feeling though that when Gratta replied “I quit when I die”, it was not exactly what Ascenzia wanted to hear. Gratta obviously had no intention of putting his life of crime behind him.

Gratta worked closely with Ascenzia along with Anthony “The Dragon Fly” Fry, both of them were his most trusted members. Gratta worked out of a Meriden diner while Fry operated in Monroe County.

Ascenzia operated a large sports betting racket and many video-poker machines according to court records. He also kept things smooth and sorted out any problems with Genovese and Gambino organization members.

Ascenzia climbed the ranks of the mob under the particularly unpredictable New England mafia underboss William “The Wild Guy” Grasso. In 1989, Grasso was killed during a war between the Boston and Providence factions of the Patriarca crime family.

This article was originally posted “here

Dozens arrested in joint Italian and Swiss sting against the ‘Ndrangheta mafia

A joint Italian and Swiss sting operation against the ‘Ndrangheta has resulted in the arrest of 75 suspects and the seizure of goods worth 169 million euros ($188 million USD).

A further 83 suspects were placed under investigation but were not arrested at this time.

Italy’s financial police said that the large operation involved 700 Italian officers.

The Guardia di Finanza, a militarized police force, forming a part of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, said in a statement, “Seventy-five people were arrested simultaneously in Italy and in Switzerland, accused of serious crimes including mafia association, international drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption. The operation was the result of years of intense investigative work between Italian and Swiss prosecutors and police.”

The Guardia Di Finanza, who were part of an Italian and Swiss sting operation against the 'Ndrangheta mafia.

The Guardia Di Finanza, who was part of an Italian and Swiss sting operation against the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

A statement released by the Swiss prosecutor’s office said that “police seized weapons and ammunition in raids in the regions of Aargau, Solothurn, Zug, and Ticino”.

Nicola Morra, head of the Italian parliament’s anti-mafia commission said, “If anybody still thinks that the ‘Ndrangheta is a purely Italian problem, this operation shows the opposite.”

Most of them Swiss residents, six key Italian suspects are accused of various crimes including the importation of counterfeit currency from Italy into Switzerland.

A Swiss prosecutor said, “The accused have been living for many years in Switzerland and, presumably, carried out illegal activities along with legal activities, such as investments, loans, or even the management of a restaurant.”

The raids come on the heels of an Interpol warning last month that the ‘Ndrangheta have vast reserves of cash that they will most likely use to help struggling businesses. This will further interweave the ‘Ndrangheta into the legal economy.

Centered in the Calabria region, the ‘Ndrangheta is now Italy’s most powerful criminal organization, overtaking Sicily’s infamous Cosa Nostra.

A major raid in December 2019, led to the arrest of a police colonel, a former MP and 332 other people. Over the past year, Interpol and the Italian authorities have started a new program to crack down on the ‘Ndrangheta.

The ‘Ndrangheta has long been known to expand their territory from their beginning in the poverty-stricken region of Calabria, in the tip of Italy’s boot, to North America, Europe, and Australia.

This article was originally posted “here