Murder Machine-Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci

murder machineDeMeo and his crew of psychopathic killers engaged in killing on a scale that rivaled the actions of the former crew of contract killers out of Brownsville, Murder, Inc., during the early half of the 1900s.  And although he’s been deceased since 1983, his name and reign of terror remain legendary in mafia history.  Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci bring us their account of DeMeo’s reign of terror in this excellent investigative report that gives the full story of the rise and fall of one of the most violent street crews in New York City history.   Carefully researched and aided by firsthand accounts of former associates and witnesses, the duo revisits the past and the early lives of Antonio “Nino” Gaggi, Roy DeMeo and Dominick Montiglio, the only surviving member from DeMeo’s crew.

While society tends to glorify stories about the mob through films and documentaries, this book is anything but that.  What we learn in these pages is that the characters we follow, operate in a completely different world.  The majority have limited education, are prone to acts of violence and often fall victim to the many vices that lie in wait on the gritty streets of the inner city.  Deceit, suspicions, greed and homicidal urges take center stage revealing a complex web that devours nearly all of its participants.  The crimes are grisly and the crew’s “disposal” of bodies borders on the macabre.  The book is not for the faint of heart but it is the definitive account of the murderous reign of one of Brooklyn’s most feared killers next to the grim reaper himself, Greg Scarpa.

Similar to Goodfellas, the stories are entertaining and thrilling, the fallout is tragic and in the end we are able to see the dark side of a life in crime and the many victims, both living and deceased that are created in the pattern of dysfunction filled with the worst traits a person can have.  The authors did a phenomenal job of covering the trials and convictions of the major players.  The private and mysterious Walter Mack also makes an appearance and his role and importance in the convictions is on full display.  And the heroic efforts of the many detectives that spent countless hours in their investigations are rightfully profiled.  Nearly all of the gangsters in the book are gone with almost every single one having met a violent end.  However, their names are still mentioned today and their stories continue to be told.  Their stories are a critical part of the history of New York and will remain with us until the end of time.  For those who enjoy true crime and are fascinated by the inner workings of the American mafia, this book is among the best.

ISBN-10: 0451403878
ISBN-13: 978-0451403872

 

 

Double Cross: The Explosive Inside Story of the Mobster Who Controlled America-Sam Giancana,Chuck Giancana and Bettina Giancana

61nm4hsx32l-_sx331_bo1204203200_June 19, 1975-Former boss of the Chicago mafia, Sam “Mooney” Giancana is shot and killed in the basement kitchen of his home in Oak Park, IL.  Giancana had been extradited from Cuernavaca, Mexico and was scheduled to give testimony to the newly formed Church Committee.   Some have speculated that his murder was to silence the old mafioso in the fear that he might reveal an unknown number of secrets about the American mafia and its relationship with the Unites Government.  His death shocks the nation and raises many more questions about the events in Cuba, Chicago and Dallas, Texas.  For several decades, he ruled Chicago with an iron fist and was privy to nearly every major event to occur in the Windy City.

‘Double Cross’ is the inside story of Giancana’s life by his younger brother, the late Chuck Giancana, Sam’s nephew also named Sam and Bettina Giancana, a published author and recognized expert in the field of organized crime.  The book is written like a novel but it is far from fiction and this story of the mobster who controlled America is one of the most revealing books I have ever read and helps to reader to understand just how powerful the  mafia had become in the United States.   Years before the RICO act was designed and used by prosecutors to break the backbone of organized crime,  the mafia controlled nearly every aspect of American society.  And among these power players was none other than Sam Giancana, whose reach stretched from all corners of the country, countries abroad and even to the oval office.  The son of Italian immigrants learned the tricks of the trade through the hard knocks of life on the gritty streets of Chicago which at the time, was the city known to be a haven for organized crime featuring such characters as Hymie Weiss, Al Capone, George “Bugs” Moran and Dion O’Banion to name a few.   And his stint in Joliet prison served to toughen his character making a more hardened and remorseless gangster.  His brother Chuck, at his brother’s side for most of their lives, recalls their discussion about the events of the day and the secret world of the Syndicate.  And as we listen to Chuck while he tells us what he remembers, we begin to see a very dark portrait of a dangerous, power-hungry, merciless  and intelligent person fully entrenched in the underworld where he would remain for the rest of his life.

When John F. Kennedy’s election campaign began to pick up steam, it became evident that some states would need more attention than others.  An Irish-Catholic had never been elected President and many of the toughest states were Protestant strongholds.   One more than one occasion, it has been alleged that Joe Kennedy bought the election for his son.   We do know that Richard Nixon’s campaign wanted a recount, but their efforts were nipped in the bud by officials in Illinois.   If Chuck’s words ring true and other sources are to be believed, then this book’s revelations about more campaign secrets will serve to undercut all that we thought we knew about past elections.  Those familiar with the Kenned family  and the history of Joe Kennedy’s wealthy empire will be fully aware of the bootlegging of illegal liquor that helped him amass such a staggering fortune.  But what is often unknown, are the deep connections to the Chicago mob all leading directly to Giancana.

After Kennedy took office and made his younger brother Robert Attorney General,  a war was unleashed on the American mafia.   It was a war that Giancana called nothing short of a double cross and the number of victims would be staggering and include the late Marilyn Monroe.   The truth about Dallas is still completely unknown but after reading this book, you might find yourself with more answers than questions and view the crime in a completely different light.

ISBN-10: 1510711244
ISBN-13: 978-1510711242

Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Mortorano: Howie Carr

MartoranoThe film “Black Mass” featuring Johnny Depp as the notorious Boston criminal James “Whitey” Bulger, took us inside the old Boston underworld and the power struggle between the Irish and Italian organized crime organizations that turned the city into a battle zone.  Bulger’s story, due in part to documentaries, media coverage and books, is well-known. But what isn’t widely known, is the story of the Winter Hill gang’s most efficient and feared killer, Johnny Martorano.  In the film, Martorano is played by actor W. Earl Brown. Howie Carr presents us with this chilling account of Martorano’s early life, his descent into the crime world, affiliation with Bulger, arrest and decision to become a testifying witness against the Winter Hill gang and numerous individuals targeted in law enforcement investigations.  And what he reveals is a gritty underworld full of corruption, drugs, sex, money and murder.  All of the infamous Boston gangsters make an appearance including, Donald Killeen, Indian Al, Wimpy Bennett, Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo and Tommy King.

Martorano’s life reads like a story straight out of “GoodFellas” or “The Departed” except that this isn’t fiction.   This is the city of Boston, in the 1960s and 1970s and the mayhem that ensued.  The murders are brutal, the crime heinous and nothing is spared in the book bringing home the reality of the streets of Boston during those times.  At some points in the book you may feel as if you’re sitting next to Martorano and the crew at Basin Street South or Chandler’s as they plot their next crime.  As a father of several children by different women, husband, hitman,  loan shark and enforcer, Martorano is a man of many faces able to change from one to the other when necessary and in an instant.  At the time of the publication of this book, Bulger was still at large.  Since then, he has been captured and is currently incarcerated and will spend the rest of his life in prison.  Martorano served 12 years in prison, was released and currently resides in Milford, MA.  His days with the Winter Hill gang are long gone but his reputation and past actions continue to live on as Bulger and the gang continue to be examined in books, films and documentaries.

ISBN-10: 0765332396
ISBN-13: 978-0765332394

Deal With The Devil: The FBI’s Secret Thirty-Year Relationship With A Mafia Killer-Peter Lance

scarpaOn June 4, 1994, Greg “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa died of AIDS related complications at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota.  The former mobster is known as one of the most feared killers in mafia history.   Joseph Valachi is thought to be the first made member of a La Costra Nostra family to shed light on the dark secrets held by the mafia.  Following Scarpa’s death, it came to light that he had been an informant for the FBI as early as 1953 preceding Valachi by ten years.  Unlike Valachi, he never testified and while an informant he continued to operate on the streets of New York with sometimes very deadly consequences.  From all accounts, he took part in or played a supporting role in dozens of murders, some of which remained unsolved.   His son, Greg Scarpa, Jr., is still incarcerated but has renounced his former life as a mobster and continues his quest to have his conviction reviewed and his jail time reduced.  I was previously familiar with the author Peter Lance, having read his book ‘A Thousand Years For Revenge’ as a sophomore at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.   This book on Scarpa came as a recommendation from Amazon and I jumped at the chance to read this engaging and shocking expose.  And while the cover of the book is highly enticing on its own, what’s contained is the pages of this book is nothing short of mind-boggling and will make you question everything you thought you knew about the trials and convictions of mobsters, most notably, John Gotti, Vic Orena, Sr.,  Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.  And next to Scarpa, Casso figures prominently throughout the book and his relationship with the government is just as fascinating.

Lance does a masterful and mesmerizing job of investigation the government’s relationship with Scarpa and the intelligence he was providing to the FBI.   Receiving intelligence in return from the bureau, Scarpa was given a free pass to continue his criminal enterprise, avoid criminal prosecution and perfect his craft as a stone cold killer making the streets of Brooklyn run red with blood.  Lin DeVecchio, who was his handler, was charged and later acquitted of four homicides related to his relationship with Scarpa. And while he avoided prosecution, this book sheds new light on his actions at the time resulting in even more questions than answers.  DeVecchio didn’t take part in this book and never responded to Lance’s requests for interviews.   Whether his choice to avoid Lance is admission of guilt or a carefully thought out plan of defense is up to the reader to decide.  What is clear from this book is that for 30 years, Greg Scarpa, Sr., enjoyed a privilege seldom given to mafia killers.  Following his death, the fallout from his time as a confidential informant continued for several years.   However, not all of the fallout was negative.  In fact, Lance reveals several important details regarding the war on terror that have a direct relationship with the Grim Reaper himself through his son Greg Scarpa, Jr., and his incarceration with the infamous terrorists Ramzi Yousef and Terry Nichols.  For those who have studied the first World Trade Center bombing and the Federal Building  bombing in Oklahoma, this section of the book will be highly interesting.  When I started reading this I literally could not put it down.   For information on Greg Scarpa, the Colombo Crime Family wars and the government’s fight against and collusion with the mafia, this book is a must read.

ASIN: B009NG0SIG

 

For The Sins of My Father: A Mafia Killer, His Son, and the Legacy Of A Mob Life-Albert DeMeo

DeMeo On January 18, 1983, New York City Police Detectives were called to the scene of a grisly murder all too common in the streets battles of organized crime.  An abandoned Cadillac was found with a surprise in its trunk, the body of mobster Roy DeMeo, the homicidal enforcer for the Gambino crime family.  He had been brutally shot several times before his tragic demise.  During his career, it is believed that he participated in dozens of murders, running a modern-day version of Murder, Inc.  His death came as no surprise to some in law enforcement who know very well that many in that life eventually leave it in a body bag.  But for DeMeo’s family, his disappearance and death, shook the family to its core.

Albert DeMeo, his oldest son, stepped into his father’s shoes following the murder and his life changed in ways no one could have predicted.  To the public, DeMeo was a feared mobster whose reputation preceded him but to this family, he was a father and husband who never failed to show his love and teach them the ways of life so that they did not end up in the life that he chose.  Through Albert’s eyes, we see Ray as the stereotypical American father with a wife and three children who lives on a quiet street in an even nice neighborhood.  Albert is aware that his father has a job that is not the standard nine to five but is carefully shielded by his loving father.  After Ray’s death, Albert does not glorify the life or  reveal any smoking guns. But he does recall events involving figures such as Nino Gaggi, Dominick Montiglio, Anthony Senter and Joey Testa.   Senter and Testa became known as the Gemini Twins in mafia circles.

In the beginning, all seems as if there is one big happy family.   But DeMeo’s death changed everything and as Albert tells us, the world turned upside down and those once considered to be Dad’s friends, are seen in a different light as a veil of secrecy develops in the wake of the crime. And it is here that the story changes pace as the fallout begins.  Albert finds himself in the cross hairs as the Mafia wants to see what he knows about the organization and the police want to know what he has to tell about his father’s associates.  He becomes a pawn on a chessboard as two titans wage their war against each other.  The tug of war that ensued would have profound effects on DeMeo and his revelations about the effects on his personal life are eye-opening and tragic.

With this intimate account of his life as a Mafia child, DeMeo joins the group of authors who have published their memoirs that tell the story of life under the roof of an organized crime figure.  And what is clear from his words and theirs, is that life as a Mafia child is exciting as good times come and money flows in but at some point, things inevitably change, typically for the worse and the family is left to pick up the pieces.  In this story, DeMeo picks up the pieces as best as possible but not even he can overcome the adversity that stared the family in the face in the wake of the demise of one of the Mafia’s most prolific killers.

ASIN: B000FC1I4K
ISBN-10: 0767906896
ISBN-13: 978-0767906890

 

 

 

Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice -Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy

JamBulgeres “Whitey” Bulger is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Sumter County, Florida. The former gangster who once ruled the streets of Boston is now 86 years of age and will spend the rest of his life behind bars.   The manhunt to capture him spanned 16 years and for several of those years, he was on the FBI’s list of most wanted criminals.  His capture is one of the biggest in U.S. history and also brought down many of the people connected to him, including both known associates and family members.   His trial resulted in numerous lawsuits brought against the U.S. government for the FBI’s complicity in facilitating Bulger’s criminal enterprise.

Recently, Johnny Depp has appeared in ‘Black Mass’ a semi-biopic about the notorious Bulger.  Depp is an outstanding actor and his portrayal of Bulger is nothing short of chilling.   Hollywood is known to take certain liberties when producing films and the true story is often more interesting and far more complex.  I began to search for a book on Bulger after watching the film and picked up this New York Times bestseller by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy.  The authors have done an outstanding job of putting together this semi-biography and semi-investigative report into Bulger’s life, organization and the crimes that were committed.  This book is a great addition for movie goers who’ve seen the film and are looking for more background information on the main characters and the story line in general.   All of it is covered here, including the murders, racketeering, affairs, the FBI’s complicity, Bulger’s run from the law, his capture and conviction.  The city of Boston today is far different from the one in which Bulger made his fortune.  Most of the bars and after hour spots where criminal plans were created are gone, replaced by trendy coffee shops and other commercial establishments.   But at one time, the city was controlled by the most notorious criminal in Boston’s history.

ASIN: B00B0WHTJW

The Lufthansa Heist- Henry Hill and Daniel Simone

LufthansaMartin Scorsese’s classic film “Goodfellas”, the story of the life of Henry Hill (1943-2012) during his time as an associate of the Lucchese crime family, is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made about the American mafia.  Scorsese himself has been quoted as saying it was the film he always wanted to make.  Featuring an all-star cast, his masterpiece took us into the violent and dysfunctional world of organized crime.  As a protegé of Jimmy “The Gent” Burke, Hill moved up the ladder of organized crime reaching his pinnacle when he took part in the planning of the infamous Lufthansa heist at JFK airport.  The heist took place in December, 1978 and cost Lufthansa five million dollars in cash and almost a million dollars in jewels.  A massive investigation was launched by the FBI, Port Authority police and New York City Police Department.  Only one person was convicted for the crime and the money has never been recovered.  In January, 2014, mobster Vincent Asaro was arrested and charged with being part of the heist.  He was acquitted in November, 2015.   This book is a collaboration between the late Hill and author Daniel Simone about the robbery and the personal lives of Burke and his crew.

The secrets regarding the location of the stolen cash went to grave with with the deaths of Burke, Paul Vario, Hill and the other associates who took part in the planning or execution of the robbery.   Asaro’s acquittal served as another dead end in the government’s quest to prosecute those responsible for the heist.   The investigation into the robbery received its first break with the discovery of the fingerprints of Pernell “Stacks” Edwards but was immediately compromised by hidden battles between the three leading investigative agencies.  It was not a team effort and the infighting resulted in investigators from each agency running into walls of silence and misinformation.  The crime pulled in all three agencies because 1) it involved currency stolen from an international air carrier, 2) the crime occurred on Port Authority property and 3) the crime occurred in Queens County even though it was on airport property.

At the top of the list of investigators was the Federal Bureau of Investigation in liaison with former United States Attorney and Boston College alumni Ed McDonald.  McDonald has admitted that Hill never made the best witness and his years of drug abuse had taken its toll on the memory he had left. Others have called Hill a rat, junkie, punk and far worse.  In fact, I have yet to hear anyone who did know him on the streets, speak kindly of him.  But the reality is that he was there and he was a witness to the events that formed the basis of Scorcese’s classic.  And his testimony proved to be beneficial for the U.S. government. Burke and Vario both died in prison as they served out their sentences from convictions based on Hill’s appearances.  Still though, this is Henry Hill and some parts of his story are questionable.  He alleges that an attempt on his life was made on Tillary Street near the Brooklyn Bridge.  There is no credible evidence to back up this claim.    So it is up to the reader to take what he does say at face value and cross-reference the facts.

The book reads like a crime novel and Simone’s writing style is engaging.   In the film, there is a sequence in which the bodies of those connected to Burke began to surface following the robbery.  Their deaths are explained further in the book helping the reader and movie buff to understand why they were eliminated and the reasons behind Burke’s actions.  He unleashed a deadly wave of homicides in the wake of the heist and proved to be just a cunning as any mobster we have ever seen.  Burke has long been deceased and can offer no response in defense. But even if he were alive, I highly doubt that he would have written any type of book regarding his time in the life.   Both he and Vario were considered old-school mafioso who lived by the rules of the game.  And had it not been for the movie, millions of people would have never heard their story.  Hill died on June 12, 2012 at the age of 69 after years of battling heart disease. The remaining secrets have gone with to his final resting place.  But before he died he left behind testimony interviews and this collaboration with Simone.   He may not be the most reliable, but he was the final link to a time in New York City that we will never see again.

ISBN-10: 1493008498
ISBN-13: 978-1493008490

Donnie Brasco- Joseph D. Pistone with Richard Woodley

brascAugust 12, 1982-The body of Dominic “Sonny Black” Napolitano is found at the corner of South Street and Bridge Avenue in the Arlington section of Staten Island, New York.   Napolitano had been summoned to a meeting on August 17, 1981 at the Flatlands home of Ron Filocomo to discuss recent developments surrounding the revelation that former associate Donnie Brasco was an undercover agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  In the bureau is known as Joseph D. Pistone.   Pistone had infiltrated the Bonnano crime family by posing as a fencer of stolen jewelry.  He worked undercover for five years.  The operation was suspended when it was learned that Pistone had been asked to take part in a murder which would have resulted in him becoming a made member of the crime family.

This New York Times bestseller is Pistone’s memoir of the five dangerous years he spent with the members of the Bonnano crime family.  Playing a cat and mouse game, he moves back and forth between the mafia and government circles carefully taking measures to hide his real identity and assigned task.  The family is filled with hardened gangsters and murderers making each move a carefully calculated risk.  Falling under the tutelage of Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero, Brasco quickly becomes ingrained into the mafia way of life.  And through his eyes and ears, we witness the dysfunctional relationships that define the mafia and their families.  Pistone’s developing relationship with Ruggiero, whom he wanted to save from what he believed to be a certain death, is one of the book’s saddest moments.  Ruggiero survived the fallout and served time in jail before dying of cancer in 1994. Pistone has appeared in specials and on television to re-tell his story about his time in the Bonnano crime family.

Hollywood took an interest in Pistone’s story and in 1997, the film “Donnie Brasco” was relased.  Johnny Depp stars as Piston with Al Pacino assuming the role of Lefty and Michael Madsen as Sonny Black.  Pacino was awarded for best actor by the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards for his portrayal of Ruggiero.  The film is very close to the book and Depp and Pacino turn in great performances.  It is a New York City film classic about life in the the five families.   If you enjoy this film then the book is a must read.

ISBN-10: 0451192575
ISBN-13: 978-0451192578