The New York Daily News
Little Al Vs. Onionhead in Turf Beef
FOR years, Chinatown has been devouring Little Italy block by block as recent Chinese immigrants replaced the established Italian immigrants who died or moved away.
So too the gangsters.
But a few short years ago, the Italians prevailed, according to secret FBI documents that Gang Land has obtained about a rare and dramatic sitdown between two top hoods from different worlds trying to settle a beef over turf.
On one side of the table was Alphonse (Little Al) D'Arco, the acting boss of the Luchese family. He had just gotten out of prison for heroin trafficking.
On the other was Johnny (Onionhead) Eng, the dai lo dai of the Flying Dragons, the Chinese gang that moved heavily into heroin smuggling when the Sicilian Mafia dropped out after the Pizza Connection prosecutions of the mid-1980's.
Today Eng is serving 24 years for heroin trafficking while D'Arco is a protected federal witness who has helped bring down Mafia bosses from two families and is ready to testify against a third.
Back in 1989, however, Eng and D'Arco (seen in a doorway at Grand and Mulberry Streets at the right) were adversaries in crime, and they were both very angry.
And what were they feuding about? Not heroin. Not even fireworks sales. The bone of contention was Big Mike's Hero Shop.
Big Mike was a Bonanno family associate who owned a hero shop on Cleveland Place. The cold cuts weren't bad but what really distinguished the place was the back room gambling den Big Mike ran that catered to Eng and other Chinese heroin dealers.
Another high roller around that time was a garment center trucker who had once carried a suitcase filled with $1million in drug money to China, and had asked D'Arco about his abilities to "wash money" for him, according to the FBI reports.
But when Little Al got out of prison, he wanted nothing to do with drugs. He did want a place to call his own -- even if it was in his son's name. A nice Italian restaurant that served good food and could also double as a meeting place whenever he needed one.
So, even though Big Mike had some Bonanno ties, Little Al threw him out and opened up La Donna Rosa, a 20-table restaurant that satisfied both his needs well.
But Eng was upset. Many of his underlings had lost money there and wanted the chance to get it back. And another associate, complained Eng, was a businessman who had invested $40,000 to set up the game with Big Mike.
Forget about it, advised D'Arco, whose demeanor at sitdowns was apparantly a little more mean and nasty than it has been since he switched sides and teamed up with the feds in 1991.
"After this meeting, no further problems developed for D'Arco," said FBI agents John Kapp, Vincent Presutti and William Confrey in their FBI account.
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