This Week In Gang Land
May 20, 2010
By Jerry Capeci
Persicos Finally Win One;
Michael Persico Goes Home
It’s been a long time since anyone named Persico has won anything in the never-ending court battles the family has been waging for more than half a century all around the town.
But this week, Michael Persico, the businessman-son of jailed-for-life Colombo crime boss Carmine (Junior) Persico won a pretty big victory – for himself, as well as for any defendant with an otherwise clean record and no allegations of violence pending against them.
Yesterday afternoon, following ten weeks behind bars after having been judged too dangerous to be released, Persico returned to his Brooklyn home. He immediately began preparing for his upcoming trial on racketeering and extortion charges under the relative luxury of house arrest.
Tuesday, Brooklyn Federal Judge Carol Amon (left) heeded the arguments of lawyers Sarita Kedia and Henry Mazurek and made the official ruling that sent Persico home yesterday, after his friends and relatives posted $5 million in property as collateral and he agreed to pay for the cost of the electronic monitoring that would be in place 24/7.
The 53-year old widower returned to the Dyker Heights home he shares with his two teenage daughters.
Amon’s ruling was not unexpected. It came a few days after three federal appeals court judges in Manhattan ruled that the judge who had kept Persico behind bars was clearly wrong on the law – and probably wrong on the facts too – and sent the matter back to Brooklyn to be dealt with properly.
The really puzzling thing is what Judge Sandra Townes was thinking when she ruled that Persico was “presumed” to be dangerous, and that even under the very prosecution-friendly Bail Reform Act that he did not have to be accused of at least one violent crime in order for her to detain him as a danger to the community.
She was wrong on both counts, wrote Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Jon Newman, John Walker and Gerard Lynch, stating that Townes “erred in presuming Persico to be dangerous” and that her “erroneous” finding “at the very outset” of her analysis wrongly colored her ultimate decision.
“The Bail Reform Act allows a court to presume dangerousness only if it finds probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed various specific crimes,” none of which Persico was even alleged to have committed, the judges wrote, ordering Townes (right) to reconsider his bail application.
Even the government had conceded in its arguments before the panel that the judge had erred on the law, wrote the panel, agreeing with the remedy proposed by Persico’s attorneys Sarita Kedia and Henry Mazurek.
In its unusually critical five-page opinion, the appeals panel indicated quite forcefully that while it did not address the merits of whether the safety of the public could be assured if Persico were released, his argument on that score was quite persuasive, and it was likely to reverse Townes if she reconsidered her ruling and still found that no bail conditions could secure the safety of the community.
“Significantly,” wrote the panel, “the government offered no evidence that he ordered others to use violence. Although the government claims to have recorded 800 conversations related to this case, none of those conversations capture Persico ordering violence.
“Indeed, Persico argues that the recordings show that whenever others asked him whether to use violence, he discouraged them. He also cites recordings reflecting that he told his co-defendants to stop threatening debtors with violence, and that the only threats he ever considered were threats of legal action.”
In one conversation relied on by the feds and Townes, but not mentioned in the appeals court ruling, Persico’s gun-toting, hot-headed cousin Theodore (Skinny Teddy) Perisco Jr. (left) was overheard saying that when it comes to adversaries, he prefers to “get a gun and shoot them, or stab them, or beat them up” and was going to seek his cousin Michael’s permission to act on his desires. But, as the high court noted, that never happened.
In March, Townes upheld an initial ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein to detain Persico – whose only prior bouts with the law involved getting behind the wheel of a car while impaired. The magistrate’s ruling went against the findings of the U.S. Probation Department which stated that the safety of the community would be assured by a posting of significant bail.
Townes was saved from having to reverse herself. She indicated last week that she would be away a few days, and referred the bail hearing to Judge Amon. His lawyers had requested a speedy resolution because of a medical emergency involving Persico’s stepson, Joseph, who underwent thyroid cancer surgery a few hours before Michael Persico’s bail hearing.
If Persico were released, the lawyers wrote, Joseph intended to live at home with his stepdad and Michael’s two teenage daughters following the surgery at NYU Medical Center.
For the record, the last time a Persico family member achieved a courtroom victory was back in 1994, when Michael’s brother Alphonse (right) walked out of prison after he was acquitted of murder and racketeering charges. Five years later, Alphonse was back in prison, where he’s been ever since. Dad Carmine, 76, is living out his days at a federal prison hospital in North Carolina.
Cutaias Best Persicos
In Mafia Preakness
The Mafia had its own Preakness this week, although the stakes weren't anything to brag about. The horse race was nip and tuck between two prominent mob families – that’s families with a lower case “f” – to see which one could have the most relatives behind bars at the same time.
The winner, by a head, was the Cutaia clan of the Luchese crime family (think capital “F”), with the aforementioned Persicos coming in close behind.
The intrigue began Tuesday when Anthony and Salvatore (Little Sal) Cutaia Jr. were arrested on federal gun and robbery charges as members of a violent Luchese armed robbery crew. They immediately joined their older brother, their father, and their grandfather as defendants in the same case. This phenomenon, five blood relatives in the same mob indictment is unprecedented, according to a quick and dirty Gang Land investigation.
Anthony, 22, and Sal Jr., 29, were each charged with serving as drivers in gunpoint robberies that were carried out last year by brother Joseph and other armed thugs. Add in Luchese soldier John Baudanza (right) – who married into the Cutaia family – and that makes six Cutaia clan members behind bars. For those keeping score, add Grandpa, Domenico (Danny) Cutaia, (left) and his son Salvatore, to round out the sextet.
The Persicos did their best, coming in a close second, with five of their illustrious clan, including the four family members mentioned above, and the elder Teddy Persico, a capo who’s due out in three years.
With nephew Michael now out of the clink, the Persico head count fell to four, making them closer to your average criminally disposed Mafia family unit .
The Cutaia clan inched ahead in the race after the feds moved to detain the newly arrested brothers as dangers to the community and flight risks because they faced upwards of ten years in prison as drivers in robberies in which guns were used.
Anthony allegedly used a van he was driving to help trap a Brooklyn electronics store owner they had targeted on the street in front of his home. The feds say that after shots were pegged at the store owner and his wife, Anthony helped his brother Joe and two other gunmen escape. Unfortunately, the other cohorts – John Paul Cruz and Nicholas Bernardo – later began cooperating with the FBI.
Prosecutors charged that Little Sal was the driver in the robbery of a drug dealer during which the victim was beaten in the car. The dealer was forced to let the assailants into his home where they stole money and drugs. Little Sal also used a police scanner and served as a lookout to sound an alert if the cops showed up.
Sal Jr. caught a big break, however, after U.S. Magistrate Judge Viktor Pohorelsky sided with federal defender Michael Padden, who argued that his client was a minor player in the overall case, and was named in just one, very defendable, incident. The judge released Little Sal under strict house arrest provisions on a $500,000 bond secured by his mother-in law’s home.
Late yesterday, Anthony’s lawyer told Gang Land he's worked out a similar deal for his client. “I anticipate Anthony's release on Thursday, with the consent of the government,” said his attorney, Scott Leemon.
Meanwhile, the feds added mob associate Anthony Manzella (we told you about him last week), to the indictment. Manzella is charged with the May 13, 2008 armed robbery of money and drugs from a Staten Island pharmacy. This caper occurred, according to court records, a few months before Manzella became an alleged key player in the Gambino family’s sex-trafficking ring that employed teenage prostitutes.
Cutaia Bros. Back Story Stars
Big Joey From The Bronx
The back story on the Cutaia Brothers’ robbery crew is even more fascinating than the family’s prison head count: The gang leader is a little known, Bronx based Luchese mobster who has spent three stretches in upstate New York prisons for an assortment of home invasion and similar crimes that began with a Christmas Day Brooklyn burglary back in 1974, Gang Land has learned.
Meet Big Joey From The Bronx, a 59-year-old fugitive gangster who used three different names while spending 11 plus years in state prisons between 1975 and 1991. Big Joey later relocated to the Belmont section of The Bronx where he opened up a social club on Cambreleng Avenue and East 188th Street.
But that’s about the only thing that investigators are sure about. They are fairly positive that his real name is Joseph Lubrano, but even that’s not a sure thing. Along the way, while serving time for robberies and burglaries in Brooklyn and Staten Island (he also attempted escape by posing as another inmate) he has also used the names Jack Lubrano and Joseph Lurano.
In any event, according to the feds, Lubrano supervised the robbery crew and regularly met with Joseph Cutaia and another crew member at his social club to collect his share of the loot that his young prodigies earned in scores that took place, according to one law enforcement source, “almost every week.”
In return, Big Joey, who stands about 6-foot-four, protected his prolific young hoodlums in disputes with other mob-connected gangsters and assured Joe Cutaia (left)“that he would propose and support him for induction into the crime family,” said one source.
Sources say that Lubrano made good on his promise to protect Joseph Cutaia from rival wiseguys on at least one occasion, when Cutaia and the two crew members who later cooperated, Cruz and Bernardo, robbed a drug dealer with ties to the Bonanno crime family.
“Big Joe intervened and protected Cutaia from retaliation” at a sitdown, said one source.
Meanwhile, the slippery veteran mobster has given the feds the slip. Over the last two days, FBI agents, armed with an arrest warrant that charges Lubrano with a slew of racketeering charges, have been unable to nab Big Joey at his usual haunts, or though his relatives or a former attorney.
Said FBI spokesman Jim Margolin: “The FBI is actively looking for Joseph Lubrano, and we know he’s aware of that. It’s only a matter of time before he’s in custody, so there really isn’t any point to his prolonging it.”
"If you believe there's a hell...I don't know if you're into that...but we're already pretty much going there, right? But I'm not going to lie down until I get there."
- Walter White