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By Jerry Capeci
Big Mike DeSantis Makes A Big Time Move To The Top Of The Charts
Gang Land Exclusive!Michael DeSantisIn a bloodless coup, Brooklyn-based Luchese wiseguy Michael (Big Mike) DeSantis, a staunch and longtime loyal supporter of his imprisoned-for-life Mafia boss, Vittorio (Vic) Amuso, has replaced Matthew (Matty) Madonna, the acting family boss who allegedly ordered the 2013 murder of former Purple Gang Leader Michael Meldish, Gang Land has learned.
The move by Madonna, an 83-year-old veteran of the Luchese family's Bronx crew, averted a blood bath akin to the one Amuso and his then-top lieutenant, Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, carried out in the late 1980s and early 90s when more than a dozen Luchese members were murdered.
Amuso authorized the takeover in a coded letter he sent from prison to longtime underboss Steven (Stevie Wonder) Crea, according to the testimony of a turncoat mobster who began cooperating with the feds last year. Amuso's threatened hit list, according to mob defector John Pennisi, included a captain and several members of the family's Bronx crew.
Steven CreaPennisi told the feds that if Crea hadn't gone along with Amuso's directive to relinquish control of the family, rival mobsters in several Luchese family crews had planned to kill Stevie Wonder, his capo son, Steven (Stevie Junior) Crea and other members of two Bronx crews. While Madonna was the acting boss, Crea, 71, has always been considered the power behind him.
"We would have killed members of the Bronx" crews, Pennisi stated on the witness stand at the Manhattan Federal Court racketeering trial of family soldier Eugene (Boobsie) Castelle. Pennisi, who was calm and matter of fact on the stand, delivered only glancing blows to Castelle. But in often riveting testimony he recounted the secret recent history of the Luchese family. Testimony in the six-day trial ended yesterday. The jury will hear closing arguments today.
Chief among his revelations was that DeSantis, who served 18 years after pleading guilty to two mob murders he carried out for Amuso in the late 1980s, took over the reins from Madonna in 2017.
Vittorio AmusoDeSantis had long ago proved his loyalty to Amuso. In addition to two murders, DeSantis was charged with being part of five failed mob rubouts for Amuso when he was arrested and jailed on December 22, 1992. But it was his failure in a sixth alleged murder plot 15 months earlier, that had the most profound impact on mob prosecutions for decades.
That was the night Big Mike walked stiffly into the Kimberly Hotel in midtown Manhattan on a warm September night wearing a heavy blue sweatshirt over a bulletproof vest with a gun in his waistband. Alfonso (Little Al) D'Arco, who was then acting boss for the fugitives Amuso and Casso, spotted the gun as DeSantis entered a room where a meeting on crime family businesses was underway. Already alert to rumors that Vic and Gas wanted him dead, D'Arco braced himself.
But instead of gunning Little Al down immediately, DeSantis walked into the bathroom where he stowed the gun in a move reminiscent of the famous scene in The Godfather. The delay enabled Little Al to make it safely out of the hotel, into the Witness Security Program, and onto the witness stand for 16 trials, with Amuso being the first of four convicted Mafia bosses against whom he testified.
Pennisi, 49, testified that he learned about the takeover plan in its early stages from another longtime Amuso loyalist, Patrick (Patty Red) Dellorusso. DeSantis, 65, and Dellorusso, 58, were each convicted of racketeering in the 1990s. Both have served their time, as well as their post-prison supervised release restrictions, and sources say they have been back in the fray for years.
Patrick DellorussoDeSantis was nailed in mob activity a year before his five-year post-prison restrictions ended, but it didn't cost him any more time behind bars, according to court papers obtained by Gang Land.
In May of 2014, the papers state, the FBI spotted DeSantis with his then-captain Carmine Avellino in a "classic mob sitdown" at a Long Island restaurant. On the menu, agents said, was an effort to resolve "a dispute over illegal criminal activity" with a mobster in Pennisi's crew, John (Johnny Sideburns) Cerrella and their capo, John (Big John) Castellucci.
But while it may have been an old-school sit-down among plotting mobsters, DeSantis was saved from a return trip to prison thanks to modern medicine: he had recently undergone shoulder replacement surgery and was scheduled for the same surgery on the other shoulder. This called for a six-month recovery period. As a compromise, De Santis was allowed to remain on home detention until his supervised release ended on June 28, 2015.
Law enforcement sources say Crea, who's been behind bars since his arrest two years ago, is still the family's Number Two wiseguy. But while Crea awaits trial for the Meldish murder, Dellorusso is now the family's acting underboss. Should Stevie Wonder go down to defeat at trial later this year, sources say, Dellorusso will replace the long-serving underboss.
Andrew DeSimoneThe sources say that the Bronx still maintains sway in the family Administration, retaining the Number Three consigliere post. They report that Andrew DeSimone, the wiseguy son of the late capo Salvatore (Sally Bo) DeSimone, who died in 2017, has replaced Joseph DiNapoli, who copped a plea deal and is slated to be sentenced in September.
DeSimone, 56, was one of the Bronx crew members who would have been targeted for death along with the Creas, Pennisi stated under questioning by assistant U.S. attorney Hagan Scotten.
The proposed hit list included captains and members of "the Bronx faction of the family" whom the plotters believed were "people to be concerned about if they were going to make a move on the family," Pennisi testified.
Pennisi, whom Madonna inducted into the crime family in 2013, said he learned about plans to oust Madonna when Dellorusso, a member of a Long Island crew contacted him and asked him to reach out to Amuso's son-in-law, mobster Joseph (Little Joe) DiBenedetto, for the purpose of sending a "message" to his father-in-law about the takeover plan.
Matthew MadonnaDiBenedetto, testified Pennisi, was "a childhood friend" who had first brought him into the Luchese family orbit in 2012. He said Dellorusso wanted to get a message to Amuso "that there were guys out here very loyal to him" who could "step into administrative positions" after the "big arrest" of Madonna, the Creas and 16 others on racketeering and murder charges in May of 2017.
Pennisi testified that he and DiBenedetto were members of the family's so called Brooklyn crew when Dellorusso, who belonged to the family's Long Island team, told him about the takeover plan. Pennisi said there are a total of seven Luchese crews: Two Bronx crews; two Long Island crews; a Manhattan crew, a New Jersey crew — and Big John Castellucci's so-called Brooklyn crew. The name is a bit of nostalgia dating back to when both Amuso and Casso were both stalwarts of the family's Brooklyn wing. These days, the crew is actually based in the Tottenville section of Staten Island.
Pennisi said he had good intentions to relay Dellorusso's message to Little Joe so it could be passed on to Amuso. But before he could open his mouth DiBenedetto splashed cold water on that idea. He "complained" that Boobsie "was trying to get messages to Vic Amuso through Joey, saying that he would take over as the boss of the family."
Joseph DiBenedetto"You believe this guy?" said Little Joe, indicating that he considered Castelle's notion more than a little presumptuous. Pennisi agreed. But he was also aware that Boobsie had briefly served as acting underboss in the 1990s when Amuso, Casso and a slew of Lucheses were hit with racketeering charges. Pennisi said he had learned of Castelle's leadership role from Johnny Sideburns Cerrella, a Brooklyn crew member.
Pennisi said he listened to Little Joe "go on and on," with his complaints. Wiseguys, DeBenedetto griped, were "coming to give me messages" when "they should use protocol" and go through their capos. Pennisi decided to keep quiet and not raise Dellorusso's own request. "I wasn't now going to give him the same kind of message," he testified.
"I just kept my mouth closed," said Pennisi. "I know obviously if he is not going to do it for them, for Boobsie or anybody else, he's not going to do it for who I'm giving the message for. He was adamant he didn't want no part of it."
The resourceful Dellorusso, who became a top executive of a major Kennedy Airport air freight company in 1993 after he was a shop steward for a mobbed up Teamsters local of airport workers, told Pennisi not to worry, saying he would "go about it in a different way," he testified.
Eugene CastellePatty Red did so, Pennisi testified. Although he wasn't privy to details on how it was delivered, Pennisi said he had learned the gist of a letter that reached Amuso. The letter detailed complaints that in recent years, "the administration of the family had shifted to the Bronx." At the same time, "there was a crew of guys very loyal to him out here, all Brooklyn guys, (who) wanted to take the family back to Brooklyn. That's really what this was about."
Pennnisi said Dellorusso told him that they received a letter back from Amuso in which "Vic approved" them "taking these (Administration) positions in the family," and that they "were going to have a meeting with Stevie Crea to show him the letter," Pennisi testified.
Patty Red hoped that meeting with Crea and his top aides would go well, and peacefully, but said "in the event that they balked or they wanted to hold their positions," Pennisi testified, "we would deal with the guys from the Bronx."
Crea, who had watched Amuso's suspicions about the family's Bronx faction result in several murders 30 years ago, peaceably stepped aside along with his ally, Madonna. As a result, Pennisi said, he avoided taking part in numerous murder plots in which he had agreed to participate. Instead, he pursued his own involvement in sports gambling, loansharking and assaults during his years as a Luchese associate and then as a made man, he testified.
Alfonso D'ArcoBut not long after the coup, Pennisi said he soured on the Luchese family. In a replay of the defection of Little Al D'Arco years earlier, a series of incidents convinced Pennisi that the Lucheses were wrongly suspecting he was an informer, and had marked him for death, he testified.
One day, Pennisi simply walked into the Manhattan headquarters of the FBI cold and said he needed protection, and wanted to cooperate. He said he had spotted two guys parked on the street near his home in Levittown. This, he testified, became "a big, big concern" for him when the men turned their faces so he couldn't see them and one "pulled his baseball cap completely over his face."
He recognized the move as what the mob had taught him to do when he had stalked a target he had been ordered to assault by Castellucci. "Lay on a guy to get his routine down," said Pennisi.
"That's the first thing that, in that life, that they do; they want to start getting your routine down, what time you come home, what time you leave, which way you go, you know, they start getting a pattern with you."
So on October 1 of last year, John Pennisi did what Al D'Arco did back on September 21, 1991: He started telling the FBI a story that he knew they'd be interested in hearing.
Bonanno Wiseguy Anthony Graziano Checks Out At Age 78
Anthony GrazianoAt the top of his gangster game, Anthony (TG) Graziano, was a power to be reckoned with. The old-school Bonanno consigliere had his own crew of tough mobsters and was a top advisor to Joseph Massino, then boss of the crime family. But in his own family, TG, who died last week at 78, had to confront a problem that the Mafia's founding fathers never anticipated: Cable TV.
Mob Wives — a hit show that aired for six seasons on VH1 from 2011 to 2016 — offered viewers an inside, often outlandish, look at women living in a Mafia family. The show was the brain child of his daughter Jennifer. Another daughter Renee, was its star.
Jennifer GrazianoTo say the least, Graziano wasn't happy about airing any kind of inside look into the mob on television. Far less happy were his bosses. Unable to convince his daughters not to go ahead with the show, Graziano became the target of scorn, embarrassment and worse among his mob cronies. He was "shelved" by the Bonanno administration, a move that deprived him of his rank as well as all the rights and responsibilities that he had earned after he was inducted into the family.
"His response to 'friends' was, 'C'mon you know you can't control the women today,' when they broke his balls about that," said one source. "That's undeniably true," the source continued, "but when you're a wiseguy, and you can't control the women, how are you supposed to control the guys under you? And how are you going to control the guys in other families from attacking your guys? You can't. That's why they put TG on a shelf."
Although Graziano and his daughters later reconciled — posting photos of themselves together on Instagram — things got worse before they got better. His grief with the show was further exacerbated when a semi-regular in the first season of Mob Wives, his daughter Renee's ex-husband, Hector (Junior) Pagan, wore a wire for the feds and tape-recorded Graziano in conversations about extortion and other mob doings while he was in a halfway house following a long prison stretch.
That sent him back to prison for the rest of his sentence, and cost him another 19 month stretch behind bars which officially ended three days before Christmas in 2013.
In his heyday, as a close pal and advisor to longtime Bonanno boss Massino, TG often went with Massino on flights out of the country to discuss important family business matters out of the sight and listening devices of the FBI. In 2001, a year before they would both be indicted on racketeering charges, they flew to Italy and Mexico for that reason, according to court filings in Graziano's 2002 case.
Friends, relatives and more than a few fans, paid their respects to Graziano and expressed their condolences to Veronica, TG's wife of more than 55 years, and their daughters Jennifer, Renee, and Lana yesterday at the Matthew Funeral Home in Staten Island.
In addition to his wife and daughters, Graziano is also survived by four grandsons, a granddaughter, and a great grandson.
Following a funeral mass at St. Patrick's Church in Staten Island today, Graziano will be laid to rest at the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island, where he lived and conducted his business, for much of his life.
Feds: Our New Snitch Confirms That Stevie Wonder Belongs Behind Bars
John PennisiThe feds slammed all the reasons why Luchese underboss Steven (Stevie Wonder) Crea stated he should be granted bail Tuesday, and they officially announced what Gang Land reported last week: John Pennisi, the newly unveiled turncoat mobster who took the stand against Eugene (Boobsie) Castelle will be a witness against Crea in his upcoming murder and racketeering trial.
In their reply to his bail motion, prosecutors wrote that Pennisi was officially introduced to his underboss, and knows firsthand of the mobster's long history of violence. "For months" in 2014, they wrote, Pennisi was involved in a plot to seriously injure Crea's son-in-law who was in the midst of an angry divorce proceeding with his daughter Betty.
Pennisi's mob captain, Big John Castellucci gave him a photograph of the intended victim, as well as his home and business addresses, and constantly pressured Pennisi to track down and assault "the victim with sufficient severity to put (him) in the hospital," wrote prosecutors Celia Cohen, Alexandra Rothman and Hagan Scotten.
John CastellucciThis new information corroborates evidence that the reputation for violence that has been a trademark of Crea's career as a mobster "is well-earned," the prosecutors wrote, and further establishes that Stevie Wonder is a danger to the community who deserves to remain behind bars as he awaits his trial for the murder of Michael Meldish.
In addition to murder and attempted murder allegations, the prosecutors wrote, they now have disclosed new "evidence that, at Crea's direction, Pennisi and other LCN members and associates spent months stalking Crea's son-in-law, looking for the right opportunity to beat him so badly that he would need to be hospitalized."
Along with other mob associates, Pennisi "spent months trying to find a conducive location to complete the assault," the prosecutors wrote, noting that "at one point, Pennisi was told to suspend his efforts because" Crea's son-in-law had a scheduled court appearance in his divorce case and the "family did not want him to appear injured in court."
"During this period," the prosecutors wrote, "Pennisi faced increasing pressure from Castellucci to commit the assault whenever" Stevie Wonder would run into Big John at their Bronx headquarters, a social club on Coddington Avenue, the same place where Pennisi was formally introduced to Crea after his 2013 induction.
Cathy SeibelTo protect him from mob retaliation, the prosecutors wrote, Pennisi was identified only as CW-8 in prior bail hearings in order to "not reveal his identity while steps were being taken to ensure his safety" as the government worked to relocate him from his basement apartment in Levittown.
Since his identity was disclosed during the Castelle trial, "he can now be identified without further risk" to his safety in this reply to Crea's most recent motion for bail, they wrote.
As for Crea's claims that information by former key witness Frank Pasqua III about the Meldish murder has been totally repudiated by tapes the government recently turned over, as well as other reasons he cited, the prosecutors dismissed them all as either old news that's already been rejected, or new information that was totally irrelevant.
White Plains Federal Judge Cathy Seibel will hear oral arguments on the motion today.