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|October 26, 1998|
|Ray's Pizza Won't Be The Same
It's the end of an era.
Luchese mobster Ralph
(Raffie) Cuomo, (right) who founded the original Ray's Pizza in
1959 and still manages the place, is going to prison for using his
landmark Prince Street pizzeria to sell heroin along with pies.
Cuomo begins a four year
sentence next month in a sweet deal that was an accommodation to the
62-year-old mobster, who recently underwent back surgery and suffers heart
disease and diabetes.
He admitted only to
using the pizzeria's telephones to discuss drug sales with fellow
mobster Frank Gioia Jr., but Cuomo's been running a lucrative heroin
business out of the pizzeria's basement for decades.
Former Luchese acting boss Alfonso (Little Al)
D'Arco (left) told the FBI that Cuomo often conducted business
meetings right below the pizza ovens. "In the basement," said D'Arco,
"there are actual tree limbs holding up the beams of the building. These
trunks have a polished finish to them."
Cuomo opened Ray's three
years after he was caught red-handed during an armed robbery of a swank
Park Avenue eatery. He was arrested and pistol whipped by cops who shot
and killed his partner.
In 1969, he and three
cohorts were nabbed with 50 pounds of high quality heroin worth $25
million and convicted of trafficking.
Despite suspicions, and
numerous investigations by the NYPD, the FBI and the DEA, there was no
official heroin stain on the Ray's Pizza name - one that has been copied
by many other New York establishments - until Gioia cooperated with the
In numerous discussions
with investigators, Gioia described how he and Cuomo would meet at
Ray's Pizza to arrange $100,000 purchases and perform lab tests of the
heroin they were distributing.
During one meeting,
according to Drug Enforcement Administration reports, an excited Cuomo
exclaimed: "The samples were dynamite! I want two units (about three
The total cost of the
two units was $204,000 and the men made a profit of $36,000, Gioia told
the DEA. Cuomo took part in many heroin sales from 1989 to 1993, and had
several discussions with Gioia about moving into the cocaine trade but no
coke deals materialized, according to Gioia. Rather than go to trial,
Cuomo copped a plea to a four-year bit.
At sentencing, lawyer
Scott Leemon asked Manhattan Federal Judge Allan Schwartz to give Cuomo
less than the agreed upon four years because of his client's numerous,
documented, medical ailments.
Assistant U.S. attorney
Jeffrey Zimmerman objected, noting that Cuomo was well enough to travel to
the Meadowlands Racetrack the previous night and argued that prison would
be less stressful than a night at the races.
Schwartz said a short
prison stint might be the "best thing" for Cuomo, recommended he be
designated to a prison hospital in Minnesota, and told him to surrender
Land Contest |
|There's only a few more days left
to enter Gang Land's fourth contest, which tests your knowledge about the
mob, movies and music.
The rules are simple as usual: One
guess per person, via e-mail, of course. Anyone caught submitting more
than one guess will be rubbed out - with all entries eliminated. Deadline
is Nov. 1.
There are three prizes. First prize is an
autographed copy of Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti. As
most readers know, the book is one of the favorite mob books of Andy, Gang
Land's organized crime historian. (Those are his hands holding Mob Star at
the right.) It is also out of print. But we have a soft cover copy and
it's up as first prize. Autographed, of course.
Second prize is a copy of Murder
Machine, also by Gene Mustain and yours truly. Third prize is an
autographed copy of Gotti: Rise and Fall. In case of ties, prize
winners will be selected at random.
Just to be different, and
difficult, there are six questions, each worth the same 15 points.
Question No. 2 has a 10-point bonus part. Good luck.
1. Name the singer who originally
had the Frank Sinatra-like role of Johnny Fontaine in "The Godfather" but
backed out fearing a negative reaction? Hint. He had a top ten hit with
"On The Street Where You Live."
2. Name the Canadian singing
group that sang at the August 1956 wedding of Salvatore (Bill) Bonanno and
Rosalie Profaci. For extra credit, name the group's three top ten hits at
that point in their career.
3. Name the night club singer who
became a comedian and a Las Vegas fixture noted for his "insult" humor
after a Chicago gangster orchestrated a disabling attack on him in
4. Name the Colombo capo who
prevented Morris Levy, the Genovese family backed head of Roulette
Records, from muscling in on the Shangri-Las after the group had a No. 5
hit with "Remember" (Walking In The Sand) and a No. 1 with "Leader of the
Pack" in 1964.
5. Name the hit song by Mickey and
Sylvia that typified the relationship between Robert DeNiro and
Sharon Stone and was playing when they first met in the movie, "Casino."
6. Name the three top ten hits that
Jay and the Americans had while Jay Black, who sang at a couple of
weddings of John Gotti's kids, was the group's lead
|Prosecutors will start scraping the bottom of the
mob barrel today as two brothers go to trial charged with the attempted
murder of an unthreatening woman in one of the low points in the
history of the American Mafia.
Luchese mobster Michael (Baldy
Mike) Spinelli (right) and his brother Robert are charged with taking part
in the shooting of Patricia Capozzalo, a mother of three who was attacked
outside her Gravesend, Brooklyn, home.
The Spinellis allegedly plotted to kill Capozzalo in
an effort to keep her brother, Peter (Fat Pete) Chiodo (left), from
testifying against Luchese leaders. She was stalked for a month
before she was shot twice in a parked car after she dropped her kids
at school on Mar. 10, 1992. She is believed to be the first woman
targeted by the mob in a move to keep a witness from testifying.
The Spinellis categorically deny
the allegations - more about that later - but the fact that the mob
singled out Capozzalo for death is undisputed.
The key prosecution witness in the
case is none other than Dino Basciano, a onetime wannabe mobster who
pleaded guilty three years ago to firing several shots at the terrified
Basciano said he had agreed to do a
"piece of work" for his mob superiors before he knew Capozzalo was
the target. When he learned, Basciano said, "there was no backing
He described how he and Michael
Spinelli followed her as she drove her kids back and forth to school,
never being able to get a clear shot without the children or her neighbors
getting in the way.
The day before he shot at her,
Basciano recalled, there were a "couple of kids coming down the stoop. We
let her go."
"The next day," said Basciano, "she
came down the block. She didn't park in front of the house, she parked on
my side. I was on the passenger side. I told Michael, `Lock her in.' (We)
had ski masks on, (I) had a pistol with a silencer inside a bag, and when
I got out, she looked at the van. She didn't notice me coming on the side,
and the van got close. She looked .... and spotted me and she tried to
move the car. I shot her through the window. She went down. She went to
put her head underneath the dashboard. She was screaming. I shot again.
The silencer cracked, broke off. The thing I was holding it, I was
shooting it. I hit her one more time and bullets were going all different
Robert Spinelli, who completed a 56 month sentence
for drug dealing last month, allegedly was part of the murder conspiracy
along with his brother and mobsters who are either dead, like Gregory
Cappello, (right) or jailed for other crimes, like Richard Pagliarulo
Michael Spinelli, who pleaded
guilty in 1994 to racketeering and murder charges in return for a 22-year
sentence, refused to admit guilt in the assault on Capozzalo then even
though his jail term would have been the same.
"He didn't have anything to do with
it," said his attorney Ephraim Savitt.
Lawyer Scott Leemon said the same
thing about Robert Spinelli.
Prosecutors Elizabeth Lesser and
Daniel Dorsky will use Basciano, Chiodo, Gioia and Luchese associate
Corrado (Dino) Marino to try and prove otherwise during the next four
weeks or so in Brooklyn Federal Court.
|His "I Spy" defense kept
the jury out for three days, but in the end, Gregory Scarpa Jr. (right)
would have been better off taking the 17 years the feds offered him to
plead guilty to racketeering and murder charges.
A Brooklyn Federal Court jury
convicted the 47-year-old Colombo mobster Friday of six counts of
racketeering, loansharking, illegal gambling and tax
A dejected Scarpa was acquitted of
five gangland murders, but in the end, the gangster, who has been jailed
since 1988, faces about 90 more years for his conviction, which includes
four murder conspiracies.
Defense lawyer Larry Silverman said
he will ask for leniency at sentencing because Scarpa cooperated
with the FBI and spied on World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi
Yousef while they were cellmates.
"We strongly believe that he
prevented serious harm to people, both government officials and others,"
said Silverman, adding that he will appeal the
It's the end of an era. This is Andy's last week as
Gang Land's resident organized crime historian. After a brilliant 18-month
run, Andy's going off in some other direction. As Gang Land ponders how to
replace the irreplaceable Andy (We're up for suggestions from
reader/viewers.) here's his last effort for Gang Land, a reply to a
multi-part query from Bill Montgomery who asks: "What is the current
status of the Louisiana Mafia? What is factually known about ties between
Carlos Marcello and Jack Ruby? Any truth to several recent accounts of a
planned war against East Coast families by Marcello and Santo Trafficante,
In 1996, New Orleans
boss Anthony Carollo and underboss Frank Gagliano were convicted of a
variety of racketeering charges. Both men were long time members of the
New Orleans La Cosa Nostra family and their downfall has relegated the
operation to a minor league level. There's no way they could win a war
against Canadian bikers, let alone the New York mob.
father was the family boss prior to the reign of Carlos Marcello. Carollo
was caught with Marcello, Carlo Gambino and about 10 other high ranking
mobsters at an Italian restaurant in Queens, New York in 1966. Dubbed
Little Apalachin by the media in deference to the major 1957 mob conclave
that took place in Apalachin, NY, the mobsters were probably caught at the
eatery after a Commission meeting that was held elsewhere.
stated previously, I give no credence to claims that La Cosa Nostra
had anything to do with the assassination of President Kennedy. The
desperate attempts to link Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald to the Mafia
would be laughed out of court. However, it makes great reading for
conspiracy buffs and the uninformed. For a more in-depth analysis, I
suggest CASE CLOSED by GERALD POSNER.
As I have said before,
an extensive FBI bugging and wiretapping attack on La Cosa Nostra from the
late 1950's into 1964 picked up nothing, absolutely nothing to indicate a
murder plot. There were a few mentions that some mob guys hated the
Kennedys, but nothing to suggest an assassination plot. Furthermore, the
FBI had some high placed informants during that era and they reported
nothing. A Mafia role in the Kennedy killing is just not