‘Albanian Gangster’ actor enlisted Genovese mobsters to collect debt: sources

A Queens bookie who once acted in a movie called “Albanian Gangster” was arrested along with two reputed Genovese crime family mobsters he allegedly enlisted to collect a debt, federal prosecutors and sources said Tuesday.

The trio, including an alleged 84-year-old Genovese capo, was charged in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday for the extortion scheme against an Italian restaurant owner, according to an indictment against them and a law enforcement source. 

The suspects — wannabe film star Luan Bexheti, 49, reputed soldier Joseph Celso, also 49, and octogenarian and longtime wiseguy Anthony “Rom” Romanello — all face two federal counts for extortion. Celso faces a third count for obstruction of justice, according to the indictment. 

Anthony Romanetto leaving Brooklyn Federal Court
Anthony Romanello faces two federal counts for extortion.
William Farrington

The case stems from a gambling debt a restaurant owner racked up with Bexheti in 2017, when the actor, who has appeared in more than 40 indie flicks, was moonlighting as a bookie, a law enforcement source said. 

Bexheti, an apparent Genovese associate of Albanian descent, allegedly enlisted Celso and Romanello to collect, the source said. 

Romanello — who was acquitted in Brooklyn federal court a decade ago on extortion charges — allegedly punched the restaurateur in the face to convince him to pay up, the law enforcement source said. 

The other accused mafioso, Celso, was implicated in the 1991 slaying of Manuel Mayi, a 19-year-old Dominican Queens College student.

Joseph Celso leaving Brooklyn Federal Court
Alleged mob soldier Joseph Celso was also charged in the extortion scheme.
William Farrington

The teen was chased for 16 blocks and beaten to death by a mob of nearly a dozen people who allegedly spotted him spraying graffiti in Corona. 

Celso was the only person charged in the slaying, but was acquitted at trial in 1993 after the main witness in the case left the country, The Post reported at the time

All three of the suspects pleaded not guilty and were released on bond at their arraignments in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday. None of the defendants, nor any of the eight or so relatives and friends with them, commented as they left.

A judge set Celso’s bond at $1 million because he is charged with obstruction of justice as well as extortion. His attorney, Anjelica Cappellino, declined to comment after the hearing.

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Breaking Down The Beantown Shakedown That Started A War: Cadillac Frank Cut Into Lynn, Mass. Coke Operation & It Unraveled Patriarca Mob

May 1, 2022 — The extortion of a Lynn, Massachusetts drug ring and towing company was the final straw in the brewing tensions between two New England mafia factions back in May 1989, according to FBI records and court documents. Subsequent unrest lasted for the better half of the next decade.

When Boston mobster Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme stole $85,000 worth of cocaine and informed Gus LaFace and his business partner John (Smiley) Mele they had to pay him a piece of their businesses to keep operating, his rivals in the mafia, who backed LaFace and Mele, decided it was time to take action. The ensuing violence rocked the Patriarca crime family to the core.

Salemme was shot six times in a failed assassination attempt staged on the morning of June 16, 1989 in the parking lot of a Saugus, Massachusetts’ International House of Pancakes where he thought he was meeting his rivals for a sit-down. Mele was suspected as being one of the men in the blue-colored Dodge Dynasty responsible for the attack on Salemme at the IHOP — along with three suspected accomplices, he was arrested later that evening in Everett, Massachusetts. Patriarca crime family underboss Billy (The Wild Man) Grasso was murdered that same day as well in Connecticut.

Two years earlier, Cadillac Frank returned to Boston from a long prison stay with his eyes on the region’s mob throne. Buoyed by his allegiance to flailing New England mob don Raymond Patriarca, Jr., based out of Providence and desperate for muscle, respect and protection from the circling sharks in his own crime family, Salemme rose fast, going from soldier to capo to skipper of the Patriarca clan’s Boston wing. Cadillac Frank’s ascent didn’t sit well with East Boston crew boss Joe (J.R.) Russo and Boston’s North End shot caller Vinnie (The Animal) Ferrara and they moved for Patriarca, Jr. to give up power and resign as boss.

All through 1988, when Salemme began acting as Patriarca, Jr.’s liaison to Russo and Ferrara, and into 1989, the tensions in the organization grew and the divide between the two camps, mainly split between Massachusetts and Rhode Island and Connecticut, widened more by the day. In April of 1989, Salemme and his son, Francis (Frankie Boy) Salemme, Jr. entered into a cocaine deal with Gus LaFace and Smiley Mele, who used a tow-truck company in Lynn, Massachusetts as a front for their narcotics business and paid tribute to Joe Russo in East Boston for protection, per FBI records. At first, Russo’s East Boston mob crew thought it was an act of good faith on the Salemmes’ part. They were wrong. It wasn’t.

The problem? The Salemmes took the near $100,000 of blow purchased, sold it at a substantial markup on the street for themselves and refused to share any of the profits with LaFace and Mele. Furthermore, Salemme showed up at the tow-truck company office on May 21 and demanded a weekly take of the tow jobs the company was doing. The next day, LaFace called Salemme back to the office in Lynn for a talk and asked where his money from the coke transaction. Salemme told him he pocketed it and LaFace and Mele wouldn’t be seeing a thing. LaFace and Mele took their problem to Russo and Russo became “livid and let it be known the disrespect from Cadillac Frank wouldn’t go unchecked,” FBI informant files allege.

Russo was taken off the streets in 1990 in a racketeering bust and died in prison of cancer in 1996. Ferrara, 73, went to prison on the same case and is currently free and allegedly, at least, “semi-retired” from New England mob affairs. Patriarca, Jr. was incarcerated in that case, too.

Salemme assumed the reins of the Patriarca crime family around the same time and sought retribution for those affiliated with Russo’s attempt to block his trajectory to the boss’ chair. His five-year run as don ended in a prison cell as well and in 1999, Salemme flipped and entered the Witness Protection Program. Today, Cadillac Frank Salemme, 88, is back in prison for a 1993 Boston gangland slaying he failed to tell the FBI about when debriefing.

Massachusetts State Police raided LaFace’s home in June 2010 and found a pipe bomb, an Uzi sub-machine gun, ammunition and bags of marijuana. The 66-year old LaFace was linked to then East Boston capo Mark (The Ripper) Rossetti, also arrested in that case. Rossetti was aligned with Salemme in the 1990s and eventually outed as an FBI informant himself. LaFace’s police jacket also includes a federal weapons conviction from 1985.

This article was originally posted here

How and why Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano turned on John Gotti


It was the biggest gamble of John Gleeson’s life.

In 1991, the federal prosecutor, gearing up for his second murder trial of John Gotti in four years, had gotten word that the Gambino crime boss’s underling and co-defendant, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, wanted to meet — without his lawyer.

The only logical reason was that Gravano was ready to flip and testify against the “Dapper Don.” That, however, would be an epic betrayal of the Mafia’s code of silence and the most devastating blow ever delivered to organized crime, given that no one even close to Gravano’s level of power had ever cut a deal with prosecutors before. 

But deputy US Attorney Gleeson, the top mob buster in Brooklyn, was deeply concerned that if Gotti got wind of a meeting with his hitman underboss, Gravano would be targeted for death.

So the prosecutor arranged a secret pow-wow to see what Gravano had to say. They met privately in a jury room at the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn. After shaking hands, Gravano got right to the point:

“I want to jump from our government to your government,” he said

“Why?” Gleeson asked.

“I think if we manage to beat the case, John will try to kill me when we hit the street,” Gravano replied. “So if we do win, I’d have to kill him or be killed by him. If I kill him, I’ll have to kill his brothers Gene and Pete. And his kid, probably some others too.

“It would get complicated.”

Once closely-connected mobsters, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano (left) turned on Gambino crime family chief John Gotti (right) to help prosecutors finally put the organized-crime boss behind bars.
Once closely-connected mobsters, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano (left) turned on Gambino crime family chief John Gotti (right) to help prosecutors finally put the organized-crime boss behind bars.

This is just one of the shocking revelations in Gleeson’s new book, “The Gotti Wars: Taking Down America’s Most Notorious Mobster.” Out Tuesday, it focuses on the five years, from 1987 to 1992, when the prosecutor twice indicted the Gambino boss in a relentless and often frustrating effort to put him behind bars.

He writes how Gravano believed Gotti wanted him dead because of tapes the FBI had recorded of the big boss barking out orders, which had been played for the defendants in pretrial proceedings.

“The parts youse played in court sound like he’s trying to get Frankie [co-defendant Frank Locasio] to go along with whacking me,” Gravano said, according to the book. 

The Bull also made it clear that he felt comfortable dealing with Gleeson, a Bronx native, and two of the G-men in the room, Frank Spiro and Matty Tricorico, trusting them not to “double-bang me.”

Gotti had become known as the "Teflon Don" for skirting conviction so many times.
Gotti had become known as the “Teflon Don” for skirting conviction so many times.
Getty Images

Gleeson agreed he wouldn’t do that — even though he had no idea what Gravano meant by “double-bang.”

Their time that afternoon was limited, as they couldn’t raise suspicions or risk having someone walk in on them. But within an hour or so, the lawmen were agog at the litany of revelations from their new witness.

After quickly copping to half a dozen murders, including helping gunmen rub out longtime Gambino head Paul Castellano and his driver in 1985, Gravano was asked how many people he had killed.

“About eighteen,” he said. “I think it’s eighteen. Could it be one more or one less? Yes. I need to write them down, and you know I can’t do that in the MCC” — Metropolitan Correctional Center, the lower Manhattan lock-up where he was being held.

Gotti had evaded conviction twice before prosecutors sought to try him again in 1987. Their deal with Gravano to turn against his former boss was unprecedented in terms of scope, access and betrayal.
Gotti had evaded conviction twice before prosecutors sought to try him again in 1987. Their deal with Gravano to turn against his former boss was unprecedented in terms of scope, access and betrayal.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Writes Gleeson: “We all paused to reflect about the fact that he’d committed so many murders he needed a pencil and paper to do an exact tally.”

“Who else?” the prosecutor wanted to know. “Anyone special on that list? Jimmy Hoffa?”

“Debbie’s brother is on it,” Gravano replied matter-of-factly, referring to his wife’s younger sibling.

This was a shocker to everyone in the room. “We didn’t even know Debbie had a brother, let alone that Gravano had killed him,” Gleeson writes.

“What was his name?”

“Nick Scibetta.”

Did Debbie know he was involved in his death?

Book author — and former federal prosecutor — John Gleeson (left) with Gotti associate Sammy Gravano.
Book author — and former federal prosecutor — John Gleeson (left) with Gotti associate Sammy Gravano.
Courtesy of John Gleeson

“No, and I will never testify about it and it can’t ever come out.”

Scibetta, it seemed, had been a low-level Gambino associate and once insulted the daughter of a family captain before he was whacked in 1978 on the orders of Castellano. Only an arm was ever found.

A few days later, once the deal was signed, agents spirited Gravano out of MCC in the middle of the night and drove him to a motel in Floral Park in Nassau County, just across the border from Queens, according to the book.

On the drive, Gravano made yet another astonishing admission: He’d “fixed” the murder conspiracy and racketeering trial of Gotti in 1987 by enlisting Gambino associate Bosko Radonjic to bribe one of the jurors, a friend of the Serbian gangster who agreed to take $60,000 to scuttle the case.

FBI Director William Sessions became an unlikely "landlord" of sorts during the process to bring Gotti to justice.
FBI Director William Sessions became an unlikely “landlord” of sorts during the process to bring Gotti to justice.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This infuriated Gleeson, who was second chair during that trial, which ended in an across-the-board acquittal for Gotti. The perplexing thumbs-down verdict would be the first of three unsuccessful attempts to put Gotti away, leading to a new nickname for the slippery wiseguy: The Teflon Don.

For the moment, there was nothing Gleeson could do to address what had been a humiliating defeat. Besides, he had an immediate need: to find a safe house to stash Gravano during the three months it would take to prepare him for trial.

Enter FBI director William Sessions, who offered up his own living quarters at the training academy in Quantico, Va..

FBI headquarters at Quantico, Va., where Sessions provided his own accommodations to house Grazano while he awaited trial. Grazano spent weeks working with Sessions to prepare his crucial testimony.
FBI headquarters at Quantico, Va., where Sessions provided his own accommodations to house Gravano while he awaited trial. Gravano spent weeks working with Sessions to prepare his crucial testimony.
AP

“It was government swanky,” Gleeson told The Post of the digs, where he and Gravano would spend weeks going over testimony in comfort.

Turning Gravano was a “seismic” moment in the annals of the American Mafia, Gleeson notes in the book. But to make it happen, he had to put his career in jeopardy.

“I sure near got my butt fired,” Gleeson told The Post.

That was because he’d agreed to see Gravano without the mobster’s lawyer, going against laws and legal ethics for protecting the rights of defendants, and because he didn’t tell his own boss, then-US Attorney Andrew Maloney, what he was up to — including having met with Debbie Gravano to convince her husband to come forward.

In a recorded conversation in the apartment above the Ravenite Social Club on December 12, 1989, Gotti said Gambino soldier Louie DiBono was “gonna die because he refused to come in when I called.
Louis DiBono was shot and killed in 1990, ordered gunned down by Gotti. In a recorded conversation, Gotti said DiBono was “gonna die because he refused to come in when I called.”
Courtesy of the FBI

Debbie turned out to be critical to the case. She negotiated details of her husband’s deal with Gleeson before the two men even met and had to pretend to be shocked and angry that he’d flipped so as to protect her own life, according to the book.

The arrangement was “serious cloak and dagger,” Gleeson told The Post.

He justified cutting out Gravano’s attorney, Ben Brafman, because the Bull didn’t trust Brafman not to rat him out to Gotti. After all, the lawyer repped both mobsters.

A family photo of Gravano with his wife, Debbie, son Gerard and daughter Karen at her first communion party. Gravano, it seems, was not as kind to his entire family and admitted to killing Debbie's brother, Nick Scibetta.
A family photo of Gravano with his wife, Debbie, son Gerard and daughter Karen at her first communion party. Gravano, it seems, was not as kind to his entire family and admitted to killing Debbie’s brother, Nick Scibetta.

“He thought he would be killed if he told his lawyer what he wanted,” writes Gleeson.

Gleeson, meanwhile, was concerned that Maloney, a regular at a university club in Midtown, would blab to his pals about Gravano flipping. So he revealed his plan only to the judge in the case, Leo Glasser, who instructed him to keep the whole thing a secret.

He later came clean with Maloney, who objected mildly but gave his blessing. But Maloney’s deputy, Mary Jo White, was furious.

“I kept this to myself because he sees those guys for drinks almost every night,” he told her, according to the book. “And I figured if I told you, you’d have to tell him.”

“Of course I would have told him!” she snapped.

Author John Gleeson helped lead anti-Mob efforts in Brooklyn during the height of the Gotti years. Gleeson worked with Gravano's wife, Debbie, to secretly structure the deal that helped bring Gotti to justice.
Author John Gleeson helped lead anti-Mob efforts in Brooklyn during the height of the Gotti years. Gleeson worked with Gravano’s wife, Debbie, to secretly structure the deal that helped bring Gotti to justice.
Rick Kopstein

On the eve of the trial, the pressure to finally get a win was huge, Gleeson recalls in the book.

Another acquittal and “I’d be forever known as the guy John Gotti beat twice, the lawyer who on two occasions had failed to prove that the most flamboyant and public mob boss in history had committed even a single crime.”

In the end, it all worked out splendidly for the government.

“Gravano was an almost unimaginably good witness,” Gleeson writes.

“He made no effort to minimize his crimes, and was aided in his attitude by a deep-seated belief that they were all justified by ‘the life.’ Even the murders; ‘they broke our rules,’ he testified of his victims, and by breaking the rules of the life they’d chosen they had it coming.”

The Gravano family in court during Salvatore Gravano's sentencing for drug charges in 1994. Despite helping put 39 mob members behind bars, Gravano was ordered to serve five years behind bars. His victims' families were outraged.
The Gravano family in court during Salvatore Gravano’s sentencing for drug charges in 1994. Despite helping put 39 mob members behind bars, Gravano was ordered to serve five years behind bars. His victims’ families were outraged.
The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

After being the key to convicting Gotti and Locasio, Gravano went on to help put away a total of 39 mobsters, including Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, the head of the Genovese family, along with bosses or underbosses of the Colombo, Lucchese and DeCavalcante clans.

Gravano was sentenced to five years in prison in 1994, but by then he had already been in the slammer for four years so he was free by 1995. 

The relative wrist-slap enraged the loved ones of Gravano’s murder victims (in the end, it turned out there were 19 of them). It’s also something that Gleeson still regrets, saying in the book that he too quickly agreed to a 20-year prison cap during that first meeting with him.

Gravano ultimately spent just one year in prison since he'd already served most of that time prior to sentencing. Today, he remains a key part of Mafia cultural lore via his podcast "Our Thing."
Gravano ultimately spent just one year in prison since he’d already served most of that time prior to sentencing. Today, he remains a key part of Mafia cultural lore via his podcast “Our Thing.”
The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

“I’d left at least five years on the table,” he writes.

Radonic’s juror pal, George Pape, got convicted six months after Gotti went down, and Gleeson became a federal judge before eventually leaving for private practice.

Following his release, Gravano famously bolted witness protection, only to spend 15 years in an Arizona jail for drug dealing. Debbie, who eventually learned the truth of her brother’s death but still stuck by her husband, ultimately split from him in 1996.

The Gotti Wars

A free man for the last five years, Gravano, now 77, continues to make bank from his mob days, doing interviews and telling stories of his Gotti glory days on the “Our Thing” podcast.

But Gleeson’s pride in having turned him, which led to a “tsunami” of fresh betrayals and convictions — a crippling blow to the mob — comes through in the book.

“Captains and made guys lined up to cooperate,” he writes. “My life in crime had paid off.” 

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