|Lucchese Class of '91|
with pride and looking as dapper as John Gotti, 13 mobsters joined hands
in October 1991 and celebrated the induction of five new members into the
Lucchese crime family.
There had been a formal Mafia blood
oath, administered by consigliere Frank Lastorino, then these words spoken
in unison: "We are brothers now, one family, one
Their boss was in federal prison,
their underboss was on the run, but the five Class of 1991 grads were all
smiles as they entered a life they thought was full of promise, glory and
Within six years, however, each
would wind up behind bars -- where one would die and another would become
a prosecution witness.
The fall of the Class of '91 is
symbolic of the mob's malaise today, its ranks infiltrated by mob
turncoats and wiretaps, and its numbers shrunk by aggressive
Since 1990, the top three mobsters
in four crime families have been convicted and sent to prison -- including
Gotti, the boss of the Gambino family, and his Disheveled Don counterpart,
Genovese boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante.
But the mob's downfall is about
more than high-profile cases; it is about the scores of capos, soldiers
and associates from all five clans who have been put behind bars, many for
Here's the lowdown on the rise and
fall of the Class of '91 and their Lucchese comrades -- according to a
review of court documents and interviews with numerous sources on both
sides of the law.
Coronation night began with the
soon-to-be mobsters -- Frank Gioia Jr., 24; Thomas (Fat Tommy) D'Ambrosia,
47; Joseph (Torty Jr.) Tortorello, 32; Gregory (Whitey) Cappello, 33, and
Jody Calabrese, 36 -- waiting in a living room of a large home in Howard
In a finished basement, eight
Lucchese mobsters sat around a table, where a knife and a picture of a
Lastorino headed the table,
seconded by capos Salvatore
Avellino, Anthony (Bowat) Baratta (left) and
George (Georgie Goggles) Conte.
Acting capos Richard
(The Toupe) Pagliarulo
and Anthony (Torty) Tortorello, (right) and mobsters Frank (Bones) Papagni and Thomas (Tommy Red)
Anzellotto filled the other
For the record, Baratta was D'Ambrosia's
sponsor; Anthony Tortorello had recommended his son Joseph;
Pagliarulo (left) had proposed Cappello and Calabrese, and Conte was
filling in for Gioia's sponsor, George (Georgie Neck) Zapolla, a fugitive
at the time.
Joseph Tortorello was the first to
be summoned downstairs. Replying to questions from Lastorino, he promised
to love and honor the Lucchese family above his own.
One by one, the others followed,
repeating the ritual.
Their trigger fingers pricked, all
promised loyalty to the family and watched Lastorino burn tissue paper in
their hands and say: "May you burn in hell like this if you betray
They didn't know their fates were
A month earlier, Lucchese
acting boss Alfonse (Little Al) D'Arco (left) began cooperating with the
FBI, telling mob secrets about murders and racketeering schemes. The feds
in Manhattan and Brooklyn had already empanelled grand juries, preparing
for wide-ranging indictments. Finally, wired-up operatives for the
Manhattan District Attorney's office were taping them in drug
Inducted as a group, the Class of
'91 celebrated at different restaurants with their sponsors later that
night, and went their separate ways.
Tortorello ran a drug operation in lower Manhattan.
D'Ambrosia ran a heroin ring in East Harlem and The Bronx. Cappello became
a street thug. Calabrese did strong-arm work in the private carting
industry. Gioia did double duty as a hitman and
As a whole, they earned hundreds of
thousands of dollars for the Lucchese family, bringing riches on borrowed
By 1993, three had been arrested
and ultimately sentenced to prison. By 1997, all had been arrested -- with
one dying behind bars.
The pitfalls varied;
Tortorello (right) and D'Ambrosia (left) went down together after a
four-year undercover drug probe by the Manhattan District
Calabrese was nabbed for trying to
kill a cohort in a dispute over garbage stops. He is awaiting
Gioia, a hefty martial arts
enthusiast, was arrested twice -- first in June, 1992, on a gun charge in
Brooklyn, and then in 1993 on federal drug charges in Boston in a joint
investigation with the Manhattan District Attorney for running a heroin
pipeline from Manhattan to Boston.
But the strangest arrest arose from
a quirk of circumstances that brought down Cappello on the Fourth of July
Cappello, who was being sought by an FBI-NYPD task force
on an extortion charge, came out of hiding to celebrate. He would later
tell authorities that he assumed that any lawmen who knew him would be off
for the holiday.
But because of crowd-control concerns near Coney
Island, NYPD Detective John Kenna, a task force member, was pressed into
uniform. He happened to spot a dead ringer for Cappello, then noticed the
man had a crack pipe protruding from his back pocket.
collared the man, who turned out to be Cappello's younger brother, said
FBI spokesman Jim Margolin.
Suddenly, Gregory Cappello, eyes wild
with anger, ran up.
"What the hell are you doing with my brother?"
he screamed at Kenna -- and was arrested himself.
As FBI agents took him into
custody, Cappello moaned, "I lay low for months and come out for a few
laughs on the Fourth of July 'cause I know you federal guys are off, and I
get popped by a cop doing crowd control."
Cappello died last December in
Today, the only living member of the Class of '91 not
behind bars is D'Ambrosia, who was released in October after three years
Gioia became the informer.
In late 1994, he called the feds and offered his services. Sources said he
learned from a jailhouse visitor that the Lucchese mobster who had driven
him to his induction, Frank Papagni, was plotting to kill Gioia's father
in a money dispute.
The feds moved quickly. On Jan. 3,
1995, FBI agents nabbed Zapolla, (right) Gioia's fugitive sponsor,
at a public phone in Manhattan after a series of monitored calls and
beeper messages from Gioia's father.
As for the rest of the
attendees at the induction ceremony, all of them -- including the eight
mobsters who welcomed the class into the family -- are in
Andy -- seen here
with "Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti," one of his all-time favorite
Mafia books -- gives his take on some charges and countercharges
that have come out in Boston about the FBI's seemingly outrageous actions
in dealing with underworld informers for decades.
There are some startling
and disturbing revelations coming out of the pretrial hearings of alleged
New England Cosa Nostra Boss, Frank (Cadillac Frank) Salemme and the
leader of the Winter Hill Gang, Steve (The Rifleman) Flemmi. Along with
some associates, Salemme and Flemmi face racketeering charges based on an
alleged criminal conspiracy between the Italian and Irish gangs.
Flemmi, a long time FBI
informer, claims that in return for his insight into mob doings, his FBI
handlers had given him permission to commit crimes and thus the charges
against him should be thrown out. All the defendants also claim FBI agents
lied to a federal judge to get permission to plant bugs and that the
resulting taped conversations are tainted and should not be used as
evidence against them.
Prior to the hearing, the feds turned over
evidence to the defendants that included material from Flemmi's FBI
informer files of Flemmi. He and his absent codefendant, James (Whitey)
Bulger had been on and off FBI informants for decades.
affidavits, Flemmi claimed that he and Bulger enjoyed a very
relationship with the FBI. He stated that gifts were
exchanged, dinner parties were held and that one of the agents had been
lent $ 5,000. That wasn't all. Flemmi also claimed: that he had been
warned of a coming indictment in 1969, that he was told to avoid a certain
place that the FBI had bugged, that the FBI kept him out of a 1979
indictment, that he was given the names of a key Cosa Nostra informant,
and that Bulger was tipped about the present indictment which came down in
January of 1995. These were devastating charges, if true.
ran and is still a fugitive. In an unrelated but interesting matter,
Bulger lost an expensive court case in his absence. He had claimed a one
sixth interest in a Mass Millions lottery win of $14.3 million. The
government successfully proved that Bulger had not been a legitimate
winner but had paid the real winner $700,000 in cash for the one sixth
share. It was a method of laundering illegal money. Bulger was to get
$119,000 a year till 2010. Before taxes it would have amounted to over
$1.9 million. Pending appeals, Bulger is out the $700,000 cash plus the
nearly $2 million in payoffs.
At the hearing, it was revealed that
at least some of Flemmi's claims were true. Retired FBI agent, Nick
Gianturco admitted a "mistake in judgement" in accepting gifts from the
two Winter Hill leaders and acknowledged having them for dinner four times
and eating at the home of Flemmi's parents. Gianturco said John Connolly,
the FBI handler of Flemmi, also exchanged gifts with the two hoods.
Gianturco claimed that while working undercover, his life was saved when
Connolly was tipped by Flemmi and Bulger that Gianturco was going to be
killed at a scheduled meeting. Naturally, the agent did not go to the
rendezvous. In another startling development, Gianturco said that famous
undercover agent Joe "Donnie Brasco" Pistone was present at one of the
dinners with the hoods that he hosted. It is not clear if this meeting was
part of Pistone's undercover assignment. Pistone wrote the introduction to
"The Ceremony," a book which details the FBI's bugging operation which
captured a Cosa Nostra induction of four New England Cosa Nostra
In his affidavits,
Flemmi also accused the presiding judge, Mark Wolf, of leaking information
when Wolf was an assistant district attorney. At first, both the defense
and prosecution agreed that the judge could be impartial. As the pretrial
hearing continued however, Wolf revealed that he had "found" some personal
papers that indicated he had been involved in another Flemmi case while
working in the DA's office. In addition, the judge discovered a mid-1980's
memo he wrote about his suspicions that either former agent Dennis Condon
or agent John Morris (now retired) had leaked information about a bribery
case involving a state representative. The prosecution demanded that he
step aside but Judge Wolf recently ruled that he would stay on.
these revelations were not enough, the next ones were stunners. A former
agent testified that there was in house suspicion by some FBI agents that
agent Connolly was protecting his source Bulger. A New England Jai Alai
operator had been gunned down in 1981 and an underworld informant, Edward
"Brian" Halloran, had claimed that the deed was done by Bulger. During
eight days of testimony, John Morris, former supervisor of Boston's
Organized Crime Squad, admitted telling Connolly of the informer's claims
about Bulger. In 1982, Halloran was gunned down. Connolly has denied this
and many other allegations that have surfaced but when called to testify
at the hearing he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self
incrimination and refused to testify. Connolly has told the press he only
spoke to Flemmi and Bulger about Halloran after he was killed. Both Flemmi
and Bulger denied any involvement in the killing but refused to take a lie
Morris, who testified under a grant of
immunity, has also admitted taking a total of $7000 in cash, on three
different occasions, from the two informants. He claims that Connolly
actively played a role in obtaining the money from Bulger and
There does appear to be at least some good news for the
prosecution. They have produced FBI documents, signed by Flemmi, which
state that he did not have permission to commit crimes.
fascinating proceedings are just the latest in a series of "stunners"
concerning the New England Family. Back in the mid 1960's, the FBI, under
pressure, released transcripts of some of their illegal recordings made in
the office of then New England boss, Raymond Patriarca. The newspapers had
a field day publishing tales of political corruption, police on the take,
murder and a host of other crimes. The next shocker was the roll over of
mob associate Vincent (Big Vinnie) Teresa. In the 1970's, he co-authored
two books that detailed his mob career and Teresa became a professional
informant till he was discredited as a hype artist. Jerry Anguilo,
Patriarca's underboss from 1964 to 1984, was also the victim of an FBI
bugging, but these recordings were legal and led to a conviction and life
sentence for Anguilo. In October of 1989, the FBI scored a historic coup
when it bugged an induction ceremony of the New England mob. This
accomplishment has been used numerous times to "prove" the existence of
Cosa Nostra and had been instrumental in jailing a number of members of
the New England Family. The legality of this recording is now being
challenged by the defendants, Salemme, Flemmi and the others.
is unclear whether there will be further revelations of FBI misdeeds in
the weeks to come. Furthermore, the fact these misdeeds took place do not
mean that Flemmi and Bulger had permission to commit crimes. The hearings
certainly expose some pretty murky business dealings between FBI agents
and informers. Stay