Who is the ‘Baddest’ Mafioso on the East Coast?

(Image depicts John “Buster” Ardito, Gerald Fiorino (the spelling is incorrect in the picture) , Liborio Bellomo, Ralph Coppola, Ernest Muscarella, and Dominick Cirillo reportedly at the time of their 2006 arrest. Bellomo was already serving time on previous charges).

As our other pieces try and make clear, PanAmerican Crime often attempts to take a wholistic or institutional approach to investigating and explaining the phenomena of organized crime and criminal organizations. The goal is to accurately present what is happening and why it matters to society, not just those individuals personally involved in the specific events. In a culture that increasingly defines acceptable behaviour and even morality as doing “what is best me,” the organizations, institutions, and forces that help to define or set the stage for the actions of individuals are often lost in the myopic neoliberal perspectives that define the current ideological outlook of the modern Western world. While PanAm Crime does not attempt to debunk, discredit, or support this assertion, it does wish to take a step back from the personal and focus on the systemic.

Such work is important. It offers answers, or at least encompassing perspectives as to the significance of actions, how these actions will influence various criminal groups, and how these groups will consequently alter or maintain North American life in the future. But this methodology, although incorporating multiple important variables, can be hard to fathom, even for those immersed in the study of organized crime. How far back should the scholar or analyst go, for instance, to ensure they accurately tease out all the influences and forces at play behind an event or the development of an organization before the significance (not to mention the attention span of the audience) is lost? Well today PanAm Crime will try something new; something that, while recognizing that we will be discussing accused mobsters, will hopefully produce a little more levity throughout the discussion. Rather than spotlighting a specific societal issue or organization, this article will examine the individual and will ignore the wholistic perspective by highlighting several superlative criminals believed to be members of traditional organized crime in order to discern who is the baddest mafioso currently active on the East Coast. While several candidates will be introduced, only one will wear the crown.

Before we delve into this discussion it behooves PanAm Crime to do away with the definitional concerns that always plague such a discussion given society’s litigiousness and uber-literal operational paradigm concerning the idea of poetic license. First-off, “baddest” is not actually a word; yes, we get it. Secondly, the idea of what is “bad” is subjective, full-stop; again, we get it. According to Urban Dictionary, it has become a colloquial label to identify a subject that is the “toughest” or the “coolest,” presenting the person in question in a positive light – while PanAm Crime has no desire to make the subjects of this piece appear “cool,” comparing which subjects are the toughest will definitely be an influence. While such formally codified definitional labels can be offered, perhaps the best way to enjoy what will be written in this piece is to accept that any information offered here will be, at its heart, based on personal choice and the information available at the time of its writing. The purpose is to stimulate interest in the crime families that remain functional and the characters that populate them. In short, the gangster who will earn the crown of the baddest mafioso will demonstrate the characteristics that have earned the mafia the popularity it has enjoyed in the psyche of North American communities over the past fifty years: a propensity for violence; intransigence in the face of law enforcement pressure; currently on the street or awaiting trial; and, finally, they must hold a significant leadership position or demonstrate a high degree of influence in the mafia crime family they serve. Again, while all of these variables will be taken into account, in the end the individual mobster that has done the best job at shaping his environment while retaining his freedom and power will be the one chosen. Now that these semantics are finally out of the way the time has come to delve into the ongoing sordid world of the east coast mob…

The first two candidates both hail from the Bronx (former East Harlem) faction of the Lucchese Crime Family. Both served significant periods in prison, and both have emerged over the past decade as administration members of that specific mafia group. Finally, both are currently looking at life behind bars related to recent federal racketeering and murder charges filed against them.

The first potential winner of the baddest east coast mafioso alive is Matthew “Matty” Madonna (81), who began his mob career as an east Harlem heroin trafficker within a mafia crew that was once dubbed “The 107th Street Mob” after its base in the rundown tenements fronting East 107th St. near Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem – a place once described as somewhere you could buy significant amounts of heroin, human beings and a machine gun in 15 minutes if you knew the right people. In his younger days Madonna ran with other major heroin trafficking luminaries within his family, including 107th St. mob capo Giovanni “Big John” Ormento and those Lucchese gangsters that comprised the now infamous French Connection, such as Vincent Papa and Pasquale Fuca. Madonna wholesaled his wares to other mobsters as well as African-American gangsters, a group of which included members of “The Council” – an organization that was overseen by legendary Harlem heroin czar Leroy “Nicky” Barnes. Madonna would be arrested for heroin trafficking in 1975 and convicted the following year. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and was not released until 1995. It has been rumoured that Madonna was not a made member of the Lucchese Family when he was incarcerated and was, instead, a ranking associate on the path to full induction; however, given his almost immediate high standing in the Family upon his release it can be reasonably assumed that he had either received his “button” prior to going away, as soon as he got out, or perhaps even within prison itself – an uncommon but not unheard-of occurrence.

While this criminal resume is already quite substantial, including run-ins with storied New York crime figures, Madonna appeared to really hit his stride in his 60s and 70s. Initially rising to the post of Lucchese underboss, Madonna would be hit with major indictments; first as part of Operation Heat in 2007 – in which he was charged with helping to oversee a $2.2 billion illegal gambling scheme based out of Puerto Rico – and second in 2009, when he and other ranking Lucchese mobsters – including Lucchese Consigliere Joseph Di Napoli and New Jersey Faction capos Ralph Perna and Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. – were nailed with further gambling charges related to a $400 million illegal gaming operation. Madonna eventually pleaded guilty to both sets of charges, receiving sentences of 5 and 3 years, respectively, which were served concurrently. Finally, in 2017, Madonna, who was by now considered the Street Boss of the Lucchese group, was charged with what his been dubbed “the last New York mafia hit” – the 2013 shooting death of former New York Purple Gang leader and rumoured psychopathic killer Michael Meldish, who was found behind the wheel of his rusty Lincoln one dark night in the Bronx. Clearly, this octogenarian old school gangster still has some energy left and, if he beats the murder charges, will likely only continue to raise his profile within the New York Mafia. His status of his badness remains high.

The second candidate who, as previously mentioned, also sits on the Lucchese Family’s ruling administration is Steven “Wonderboy” Crea. Crea is a long-time capo who, as mentioned, hails from the powerful Bronx faction of the Family. According to former Lucchese underboss-turned-witness Alphonse “Little Al” D’Arco, in the early 1990s Crea was prepared to go to war with Lucchese boss Vittorio “Little Vic” Amuso and underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso. Amuso and Casso had apparently lost perspective near the end of their time on the street, ordering the deaths of well over a dozen underlings throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Jersey factions of the family for real or perceived slights and threats. While Casso and D’Arco would both subsequently become government witnesses and turn their back on their criminal oath, Crea would stay strong to the cause and serve his time. In the aftermath of the Casso and Amuso era, Crea is rumoured to have become the most powerful Lucchese gangster on the street, significantly boosting the Lucchese Family’s earnings from labour union racketeering. Forming alliances with other crime families, Crea expanded operations and increased the size of the Family, restoring it to a more substantial size and providing valuable stability. Crea would serve time in prison from 2000 – 2006, finally coming off parole in 2009. At this time, it is unclear whether he or the recently released Madonna eventually took the role of acting boss; regardless, Crea would promote his son to the position of capo of his old Bronx crew and continue to expand the influence of the Family. Crea and his son, Stephen Crea Jr., would be included in the Meldish murder indictment along with Matty Madonna. Given his arrest record as well as the wealth and status accrued, Crea is another clear contender for this year’s crown.

The choice of making the geographical limits of this piece the “East Coast” is, in part, due to this next candidate. While throughout the 1990s many mobsters tripped over themselves in their attempts to cooperate and thereby alleviate their troubles with law enforcement, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino launched a violent, personal crusade with the backing of his crew of neighbourhood buddies to overthrow the reigning mafia administration in Philadelphia. John Stanfa had become boss of the Philly mob sometime around 1990-91 after the disintegration of the Scarfo regime in blood, mistrust, and government witnesses brought on by Scarfo’s own paranoid leadership style that begat internecine violence. Stanfa and other pretenders for the throne were not respected by, what one of Merlino’s main co-conspirators, Ralph Natale, referred to as “the young men of Philadelphia.” In a sign of this intransigence, Merlino is believed by the FBI to have personally walked into a south Philadelphia restaurant in 1989 wearing a Halloween mask and shot Nicky Sarfo Jr. 10 times with a Mac-10 machine gun. (Nicky Scarfo Jr. would survive, be taken in by the Lucchese Family in New York City before being arrested along with Matty Madonna in one of the sweeping gambling indictments mentioned above). After his release from prison in 1992 on unrelated charges, Merlino immediately put his takeover plan into effect with the backing of his friends and reputed old timer and Philly mob hitman Ralph Natale. Merlino and his crew would then challenge Stanfa to an old fashion mob war, resulting in numerous killings and attempted assassinations, many in public places in broad daylight.

After Stanfa was convicted and sentenced to life-in-prison in 1995 Merlino enjoyed the highlife until Natale, who had been the titular boss with Merlino as his underboss, also flipped when facing life behind bars. Merlino rejected all plea deals and went to trial on drugs, racketeering, and murder charges, even though he faced the death penalty if convicted on the murder allegations. He would beat all subsequent charges, including a later charge that he ordered the murder of the Philadelphia Crime Family’s north Jersey capo Joseph Sodono; the only one to stick would be the racketeering charge, which imposed a sentence of 15 years. Joseph Ligambi, the uncle of his henchman and friend, George Borgesi, would assume the mantle of the Family’s leadership for Merlino while he was in prison; (although many law enforcement members and observers believed that Ligambi was in fact the boss, PanAm Crime believes that, as a member of Merlino’s supporting circle before his incarceration, Ligambi was only acting boss with Merlino holding the title). Upon his release from prison in 2011 Skinny Joey resumed his control of the Family from Florida, where he currently resides. As of 2017, he again faces charges with many prominent Genovese Family mobsters related to the once famous but now largely defunct “East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise” operation. True to form, rumour has it Skinny Joey ain’t takin no plea bargain!

The next candidate, (spoiler alert!) while not achieving the win during this take may, in fact, be poised to take the top spot the next time PanAm Crime takes a crack at deciphering the baddest mafioso in North America. Francesco Cali is perhaps the most powerful and fastest rising mobster in the storied and still influential Gambino Crime Family of New York City. Cali is a known member of the Gambino’s Sicilian faction and was once part of a group of Sicilian gangsters that were referred to as the “Cherry Hill Gambinos,” (a reference to Cherry Hill, New Jersey). Cali came up under such powerful Sicilian mobsters as John Gambino, who remains an influential Gambino captain and once served as the leader of the still operating 18th Avenue Crew (in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn). While rumoured to have turned down the boss’ mantle around five years ago in favour of a more low-profile approach, current boss and respected old timer Domenico “Italian Dom” Cefalu (also a Sicilian faction member) continued to increase Cali’s responsibilities recognizing that he would be the natural successor once he stepped down. It now appears as if Cefalu has done so, placing Cali in charge of America’s second largest Crime Family. Cali has also long operated as the conduit to the Inzerillo Family and other Palermitan crime families that, in the Halcyon days of both groups, enjoyed mutual business connections and enterprises with the Gambinos. These are once again rumoured to be in operation with Cali at the forefront, making him a sure bet to be included in this list in the future (if he avoids a lengthy prison term in the meantime!).

If this investigation had been conducted five years ago the results would undoubtedly be different. The reason for this fact would be the condition of Vito Rizzuto, the long-time legendary boss of the Montreal mafia and its interrelated clans. In 2013, Vito had just been released from a stretch in US prison at the ADX Supermax facility in Colorado for the murder of three prominent Bonanno Crime Family captains in 1981 who had been angling to take control of that Crime Family. Upon his release, Rizzuto launched a bloody purge to avenge the murders of his Father, Son, brother-in-law as well as numerous other supporters who were the victims of a rebellious cabal under the auspices of crews run by Raynald Desjardins, Giuseppe Di Maulo, and other mob captains of Calabrian heritage – including Toronto ‘Ndrangheta clans and the crew of Giuseppe “The Ponytail” De Vito. Despite successfully prosecuting his revenge, Vito would succumb to a particularly aggressive form of cancer leaving his clan in chaos just as he was again ready to stabilize its operations.

While Rizzuto’s successor was unclear in the immediate aftermath of Vito’s demise it was soon put forward by Montreal law enforcement that Stefano Sollecito had assumed the role, with Rizzuto’s son (and practicing lawyer) Leonardo Rizzuto taking on the underboss position. Sollecito is the son of Rocco “The Sauce” Sollecito, who was recently murdered in May, 2016 as part of a second rebellion within the clans of the Montreal mafia. The murder of the elder Sollecito was a response from the rebel crew overseen by Francesco Arcadi – onetime underboss of the Rizzutos before his arrest and lengthy incarceration as part of Operation Colisée in 2006 – to the murder of his subordinate protegé, Lorenzo “The Skunk” Giordano, in March, 2016. While the Montreal mafia appears down, its practiced ability to rebound and its well-constructed inroads into corrupt political, labour, and bureaucratic sources will ensure its survival. If the younger Sollecito can avoid a lengthy jail term on drug trafficking charges brought against himself and the sole surviving Rizzuto son as part of Operations Magot and Mastiff he may possess the pedigree and experience to bring the Family back to its former heights. Sollecito, while missing the top spot this year, may be poised to win the title in the near future.

All of the gangsters and mob clans mentioned above are well and truly infamous and highly capable, yet each pales in comparison to this year’s champion of the title of the baddest mafioso on the east coast of North America. Today’s winner has the personal history, the violent past, connections into the deep and still functioning mafia reservoir in New York City, time behind bars, as well as the respect and fear of law enforcement personnel. As one investigator once noted to renowned NYC mobologist Jerry Capeci: “He’s the real deal.” This supposed real deal is Liborio Salvatore Bellomo, onetime mob capo of the notorious and still powerful Uptown or 116th Street Crew, and currently the reputed boss of the shadowy Genovese Crime Family – the group that is recognized as the “Ivy League of organized crime,” (a grossly overused but accurate description of the crime family). According to the FBI and other law enforcement sources, the Genovese Family remains the most cohesive, powerful and, to be fair, functional of the traditional organized crime families operating in New York City today. While other families, apart perhaps from the Colombos, have also succeeded in stabilizing their clans – recruiting new members, increasing rackets and income – due to decreased scrutiny by the federal government in the wake of September 11th, no other Family has matched the continuity, sophistication, or size of the Genoveses, who continue to operate the largest mafia group in NYC with approximately 200 fully inducted members and well over 1,000 associates.

Given the ongoing power and clout of the Genovese Crime Family within the world of traditional organized crime it should come as no surprise that their leader would be in the running to be declared the most dangerous or baddest American mafioso on the streets today. Bellomo got his start in the world of the New York mafia when its influence, while significant to this day, was still pervasive at all levels of society in the Big Apple. He was born on January 8, 1957 (according to the US federal Bureau of Prisons) to a father who was a “made” man operating within the 116th Street crew overseen by then-capo Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno. Bellomo’s father and his father’s brother married two sisters, each of them having a son whom they named “Liborio.” This confusing circumstance would help Bellomo in the future as he would sometimes state that he was not the actual Liborio Bellomo the cops were looking for – although in truth this trick has yet to work on a federal judge. By his late teens the aspiring gangster had reportedly lost his controlling parental influence, with his father dying of a lingering illness when he was just 17 (some sources say 18). However, in a final show of love (or perhaps a lasting curse on his young son, depending on perspective) Bellomo’s father begged a deathbed indulgence from his capo Salerno: to watch out for young Liborio, as he had “no one on the street to look out for him apart from his father.” Salerno assured him that no one would hurt him while under Salerno’s watch and, thus, young Liborio S. Bellomo’s path into the world of the Five Families was assured.

At 17 Bellomo took his first criminal charge – gun possession – and by the age of 18 he had found a home within the ranks of the 116th Street Crew, as his father had once done. While Bellomo was finding his place with his father’s old criminal associates this powerful regime continued to be based out of the once mighty Italian enclave of East Harlem, which was centred along a small north-south thoroughfare called “Pleasant Avenue” that lay east of First Avenue and bordered the grungy East River. As mentioned previously, Italian Harlem during the 1970s, while slowly being denuded of its Italian populace, retained a truly rough and rumble image and was well known as a mafia stomping ground where all manner of illegal services could be obtained. Filled with low income tenements and dilapidated buildings, this 1970s neighbourhood has been a mob stronghold since the days of Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello – an infamous mobster whose uptown organization would be credited by historians as being the first iteration of the group that would one day become the Genovese Crime Family. By 20 years old Bellomo had been formally made into the Family and had been placed in its East Harlem regime – given his family’s history, there was really not any other crew that he could have ended up in – in a ceremony that was reportedly held above an East Harlem pizzeria. It is unclear what murder or act of violence the young man had committed to earn his button, but in the mid-1970s he would certainly had to have violently proven himself in some substantial fashion to be made at just 20 years of age – a fact that only adds to his mysterious aura given the myriad youngsters who were committing contemporary violent acts to obtain the membership that Liborio achieved so early in his criminal career. Interestingly, young Liborio was sponsored into the Crime Family by the notable eventual mafia turncoat Vincent “the Fish” Cafaro, who would prove to be one of the more significant pentiti in the history of American organized crime.

At the time of the Bellomo’s induction it is likely that Salerno had already been shuffled up the mafia career ladder to serve in some capacity on the Genovese Family’s shifting and ever mysterious ruling administration. If he wasn’t at the time, Salerno would soon be promoted to the position of underboss or street boss under the leadership of boss Philip “Benny Squint” Lombardo, who remains one of the most enigmatic and unknown American mob powerhouses to this day. The rotation of Thomas “Tommy Ryan” Eboli (murdered in 1972), Alphonse “Funzi” Tieri (first mobster to be arrested under the RICO statute in 1981) and Lombardo still continues to confuse mob historians. Salerno, after being arrested and jailed for 6 months in 1978, is himself is thought to have rotated through the upper administration before suffering a stroke in 1981. After Lombardo’s supposed retirement in 1981, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante took over as Genovese boss and reportedly had Salerno serve as his Street Boss – the public face of the administration to whom other crime families could turn if they needed the ear of the Genovese group. As Salerno was arrested in 1978 and served in some capacity on the administration afterwards, his replacement as capo of his crew was Saveria “Sammy Black” Santora. When Santora died in 1987 (a year past the lifetime incarceration of Salerno as part of the climax of the famous “Commission Case”) Bellomo reportedly stepped into his shoes as capo of the 116th Street crew with the blessing of his boss, Gigante. He was just thirty-one years old at the time.

During the 1970s and 80s Bellomo wound his way up through the labyrinthine politics of the Westside (Genovese Crime Family), involving himself in a variety of rackets and earning the respect of senior Family members. He is specifically believed to have trafficked in heroin with other prominent gangsters from the Lucchese and Genovese families who had their base in East Harlem. In fact, he was charged and initially convicted of heroin trafficking in March, 1988, along with Leoluco Guarino (60) – purportedly a Lucchese Crime Family associate – Ralph Tutino (53), and Salvatore Larca (43). Again, Bellomo, already a capo, was working with older and supposedly more seasoned mobsters when the cops hit him the charge of possession with the intent to distribute 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs) of heroin, with Tutino and Guarino allegedly purchasing the heroin off of Bellomo and Larca, who had apparently obtained it from “Fish” Cafaro – Bellomo’s sponsor into the Crime Family years prior. Again, in a strange twist of fate, these arrests were the consequence of information provided to the cops by Cafaro who, as mentioned, had turned on his former criminal “family” members. While Bellomo was never caught with any drugs nor implicated himself on the clandestine recordings made by Cafaro, the federal government believed he was their man. To assist in their investigation the feds reportedly gave Cafaro $400,000 to setup and facilitate the deal; only $27,000 of the buy money was ever recovered, with at least $200,000 apparently ending up in the possession of Bellomo, who escaped the federal agents that pursued him on a highspeed chase throughout the Bronx in the days before his arrest. In another extremely interesting moment of Bellomo’s life that speaks to the fear, respect, and power he commands, it is rumoured that Cafaro made a deal with Bellomo before he entered the witness protection program that included omitting certain knowledge of crimes and rackets operated by the Genovese Family (and Bellomo in particular) when being debriefed by federal agents in exchange for ensuring his son, Thomas Cafaro (also a Genovese soldier), would not be harmed in retaliation for his father’s betrayal. These omissions included all direct knowledge of Bellomo’s involvement in the heroin trafficking case, with Cafaro withdrawing his testimony against Bellomo during the appeals process, allegedly due to threats he had received.

In the years following this brush with the law it is thought that captain Bellomo migrated the 116th Street Crew from its former base in Italian East Harlem to the south Bronx, where many of the rackets operated by the regime (now referred to as the “Uptown Crew”) were located. However, this wasn’t the only change in store for him in the coming years. His ability to make money, control older and powerful mobsters, as well as manipulate law enforcement agencies all while maintaining a low profile helped mark Bellomo for further leadership opportunities. Helping him in his quest for further wealth, power, and prestige was his role at the helm of one of the Genovese Family’s most powerful crews, which has a history of supplying members to the ruling administration throughout the Family’s past. Organized crime of all shades relies on networks and established personal connections to operate, and therefore crews with historical bridges into upper management tend to keep these links, with their membership often tapped for leadership positions. Upsetting this tradition usually leads to internal warfare or chaos, as was the case within the Lucchese Crime Family in the late 1980s when it transitioned drawing its boss from its powerful East Harlem/Bronx faction to its less known but incredibly violent Brooklyn faction. So, by the time Gigante was arrested in 1990 as part of the famous “Windows Case” – which involved four NYC crime families corrupting the contractors and wielding control of the labour unions whose workers were replacing the hundreds of thousands of windows found in buildings owned by the New York City Housing Authority – Liborio S. Bellomo reached the pinnacle of New York mafia life: acting boss of its largest criminal empire.

As was typical of New York mafia leaders during this period, Bellomo’s run at the top was short-lived. Although “The Chin” had hand-picked him due to his formidable qualities and quiet operating style – to this day Bellomo reportedly only meets mob associates in the dead of night and often dons jeans and hooded sweatshirts, which are hardly the wardrobe of a mafia luminary – it was not long before his status at the top of one of, if not the most powerful crime family in the United States made him an active law enforcement target. Bellomo’s legal troubles would not cease until his release from federal prison in 2008.

The first major test of his resolve would be related to the fallout from the Windows Case, with major Genovese Family members looking around frantically for the real or imagined government informants that had provided informational ammunition for the feds; given the state of affairs within the mob at that time, these searches should hardly be considered paranoia. By 1991, one year after Gigante’s arrest and amidst his attempts at being perceived as a mental invalid, the Genovese leadership had already moved against Ralph De Simone (murdered in 1991) and Anthony Di Lorenzo (murdered in 1988), who powerful Genovese Little Italy capo, James “The Little Guy” Ida, suspected of turning informant. In such cases, suspicion is generally all that the leadership requires and, according to later informants, Ida ordered their murders. Bellomo and his brother-in-law, Gerald Fiorino – who supervised the carpenter’s union at the mob-infested Jacob Javits convention centre at the behest of Bellomo on behalf of the Westside mob – were also charged. Bellomo would subsequently pass two federally administered polygraph tests, including a test for the result-altering drug lithium, that apparently proved his innocence. Ida himself was also charged with extorting vendors at the annual San Gennaro Little Italy festival, where the the Genovese Family reportedly charged vendors a 300% markup on top of the $1,000 that was supposed to be levied against each vendor in order to operate a stall. Ida would receive life-in-prison for the murder of Di Lorenzo, conspiracy to murder both De Simone and mobster Dominic Tucci, and extortion, with Bellomo copping to a lesser charge of extortion that was related to accepting payoffs from a construction and waste hauling company that hit him with a 10 year sentence.

Interestingly, at this point the mafia tradition of not accepting government plea deals was still largely in effect. Bellomo’s desire to accept one for a reduced sentence marked a turning point in this tradition. (It should be remembered that in 1989 John Gotti prevented his brother Gene and Angelo Ruggiero from accepting plea deals related to charges stemming from their heroin trafficking enterprise that would have had them serve 10-15 years. The plea bargain was rejected and the two were subsequently convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison, with Ruggiero passing away from cancer while behind bars; Gene will be released within a year at the age of 72. Forever unburdened from worrying about his own hypocrisy, Gotti was un-phased that he himself had accepted plea deals prior to Gene and Ruggiero’s trial). Despite the pragmatic aspect to accepting a plea bargain, the mafia remained anxious about the component of all plea deals requiring each defendant to accept their guilt and, if applicable, their membership in a relevant criminal organization, which could possibly be used against him or other members as evidence during later court dates. Jimmy Ida remained old school in his interpretation of this rule and reportedly asked permission from the incarcerated Gigante to kill Bellomo for the temerity of breaking this tradition. The Chin refused, and Ida would soon join him in prison, where both would eventually pass away.

A clear target for US authorities, Bellomo would be rearrested two more times while already behind bars in an attempt to keep him from hitting the streets. In fact, he would become so enraged by their supposed pedantic linking of him to various offenses that he began to contemplate refusing all subsequent plea deals as they only amounted to “life on the installment plan,” as his lawyer sardonically framed it. The first additional indictment would come in July, 2001, when Bellomo was charged with money laundering related to the Genovese Family’s control over the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) pension fund during the mid-1990s. Bellomo subsequently accepted a plea deal, which pushed back his release date. Charged along with him was Thomas Cafaro – son of Bellomo’s sponsor and later informant “Fish” Cafaro – who scorned his father’s cooperation and remained loyal to the mafia. In February, 2006, Bellomo was hit with his second charge while incarcerated, which was related to a major racketeering case targeting the Genovese Family in NYC, with 32 mobsters initially arrested in the case. Included in the acts he was charged with was the September, 1998 mob disappearance (and presumed murder) of his friend Ralph Coppola, who was rumoured to have taken over the running of the Uptown/116th St crew during Bellomo’s time in prison. Bellomo’s lawyer Peter Peluso, himself a long-time Genovese Family associate, cooperated with the federal government and stated that he transmitted the orders to kill Coppola on behalf of Bellomo; however, other recorded transcripts depict that Bellomo was not involved and that, according to Peluso, “he would have saved Ralphie… he would have tried.” (Peluso served in the capacity as a trusted messenger for the Genovese Family, specifically Anthony Salerno, for several decades). Coppola was believed to be skimming profits from the crime family and had also been accused of disrespect towards Bellomo. As there was no concrete evidence of Bellomo’s involvement the government again offered him a deal, which he eventually accepted, pleading guilty to mail fraud and adding an additional year to his sentence at a dramatic hearing during which his daughter begged the presiding judge to let him come home soon as he had missed many of the significant milestones in her life. In December, 2008 he would finally be released from federal custody and assume the formal mantle of Genovese Crime Family hegemon sometime soon after.

Since Christmas, 2008 the public has heard little of the current Genovese boss, which is exactly as he and his mentors in the Family would wish it to be. Bellomo bridged the gap between the halcyon days of mob corruption on the east coast through the mafia’s dark time of the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, and has emerged as a powerhouse during a new period of stability and growth for traditional organized crime in NYC, albeit reduced from its former scale. No charges have been filed against him despite ongoing surveillance and an apparent driving need by the FBI and NYPD to link him to any crime possible. Working at night and living in the shadows, he has risen to rival the prestige and power of almost any previous Genovese don, an impressive feat in and of itself. True to their traditions of misdirection and secrecy Bellomo has reportedly begun utilizing the former Genovese captain of Manhattan’s Little Italy, Peter “Petey Red” Dichiara, as his street boss and buffer between the Family’s captains and himself. While the power of the Montreal mob and the prestige of the Lucchese clan’s octogenarian leader on the street were impressive, due of the stability, size, and power of the Genovese Crime Family, as well as his own pedigree, power, and influence, this year’s recipient of the baddest mafioso on the east coast must go to none other than Liborio S. Bellomo.

 

By: Scott Paulseth

 

 

Sources:

Capeci, Jerry, “Barney’s Bravado Gives the Feds Fits,” New York Sun, May 3, 2007, www.nysun.com/new-york/barneys-bravado-gives-the-feds-fits/53741/

Amoruso, David, “Profile: Genovese Crime Family Boss Liborio Bellomo,” Gangsters’ Inc., February 13, 2016, http://gangstersinc.ning.com/profiles/blogs/profile-genovese-crime-family-boss-liborio-bellomo

Preston, Julia, “32 Indicted on Racketeering Charges in Manhattan,” New York Times, February 24, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/24/nyregion/32-indicted-on-racketeering-charges-in-manhattan.html

February, 2006 Indictment of Genovese Crime Family, Bellomo et al, Labourers for Justice, https://web.archive.org/web/20070103055959/http://www.thelaborers.net:80/indictments/bellomo/doc_23combined.pdf

Hoffman, Jan, “Genovese Family Counselor Convicted of Racketeering,” New York Times, April 24, 1997, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/24/nyregion/genovese-family-counselor-is-convicted-of-racketeering.html?scp=1&sq=Ralph%20DeSimone&st=cse

Scarpo, Ed, “Onetime ‘Shooter and Gentleman’ Gene Gotti Embittered by Prison,” Cosa Nostra News, March 7, 2015, http://www.cosanostranews.com/2015/03/onetime-shooter-and-gentleman-gene.html

Lubash, Arnold, “4 are Convicted of Selling Heroin to Organized Crime Informer,” New York Times, March 7, 1988, http://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/07/nyregion/4-are-convicted-of-selling-heroin-to-an-organized-crime-informer.html

Capeci, Jerry, “Quiet Talk Leads to Genovese Capo’s Killer,” New York Sun, March 17, 2006, http://www.nysun.com/new-york/quiet-talk-leads-to-genovese-capos-killer/38084/

Raab, Selwyn, “Barney, Mob Suspect, Says He’s the Wrong Barney,” New York Times, March 6, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/19/nyregion/barney-mob-suspect-says-he-s-the-wrong-barney.html

Daly, Michael, “Will New York’s Last Real Mafia Hit Bring Down the Lucchese Family?” The Daily Beast, June 1, 2017, https://www.thedailybeast.com/will-new-yorks-last-real-mafia-hit-bring-down-the-lucchese-family

Shingler, Benjamin, “Rocco Sollecito’s shooting part of ‘final cleanup’ of Montreal Mafia’s old guard,” CBC News, May 27, 2016, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-mafia-rocco-sollecito-analysis-1.3603580

Feith, Jesse, “Lorenzo Giordano, linked to Rizzuto clan, gunned down in Laval,” Montreal Gazette, March 1, 2016, http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/one-person-shot-in-parking-lot-of-lavals-carrefour-multisports

 

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