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This Week In Gang Land By Jerry Capeci

June 16, 2011

John Gotti

John "Junior" Gotti

Wiseguy: I Did NOT Order Killing; Lie Test Will Prove It!
Like his famed uncle, nephew Theodore (Skinny Teddy) Persico likes to write letters. Behind bars for 16 months and awaiting two trials for racketeering and extortion, the Colombo capo writes to say that he is sick and tired of hearing from the feds – and reading in Gang Land – that he had a role in the 1990 gangland-style slaying of a drug dealerturned stool pigeon. So much so that he has asked Gang Land to help correct the record. Persico’s written plea echoes the jailhouse letters that his imprisoned-for-life uncle and Mafia boss Carmine (Junior) Persico penned decades ago. Back in the 1980s, Uncle Junior sent a series of missives from prison, most of them airing similar gripes about alleged prosecution lies repeated in the press. Nephew Teddy’s complaint comes as law enforcement sources confirm that a turncoat capo has fingered a trio of old Skinny Teddy cronies for the March 26, 1990 murder. Teddy Persico, 47, knows that just because he was jailed at the time, and that three others are implicated in the actual killing, doesn’t mean that he had nothing to do with it. But to prove his innocence, Teddy, who has spent more than 20 years behind bars, wants to take a lie detector test while housed in his current digs at the Metropolitan Detention Center. “I never sent any message from prison” to kill Vincent (Scoobie) Lafaro, wrote Persico in a June 5 note to Gang Land. He added that he “never sent anyone in my whole entire life a coded letter” – a reference to assertions by the feds that Skinny Teddy sent a “coded message” to an incarcerated buddy to tell him that the 27-year-old Lafaro had been whacked. Read Last Week's Column

Salvatore "Bull" Gravano

Leroy "Nicky" Barnes

Vincent "Chin" Gigante

Gregory Scarpa

Carmine "Junior" Persico

Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo

Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso

Frank "Frankie Loc" Locascio

Leonard DiMaria

Liborio "Barney" Bellomo

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“Nor did I even know that Lafaro was free from prison at the time he was murdered,” added Persico, disputing allegations that he ordered cohorts to whack the turncoat. Lafaro did not testify against Persico, but he did give cops info they used to nail him on state drug charges in 1988. That same year, Lafaro testified in federal court against other Colombo mobsters. Gang Land first reported that Persico was implicated in the 21-year-old slaying in January, noting that several turncoats, and a jailhouse photo of him and mob associate Joseph (Joey Cupcake) Urgitano that the FBI seized from a wall at Rao’s restaurant had linked him to it. Along with his missive to Gang Land, Persico enclosed a letter he sent earlier this month to the lead prosecutor in his case, assistant U.S. attorney Amy Busa, to inform her that, as he told FBI agents who arrested him 16 months ago, he wants to take a lie detector test about the killing. Last year, wrote Persico, FBI agent Donald Kornek and probation officer Robert Anton told him “they would follow the evidence and did not want to give me a lie detector test.” Despite that rejection, Persico told the feds that he is “once again” requesting one, “specifically pertaining to the conspiracy to murder Lafaro,” to prove his innocence. Lawyers on the case are skeptical of his chances. “It’ll never happen,” said an attorney who represents a Persico codefendant. The feds “use lie detectors when they’re trying to charge people with crimes, not when someone says he’s innocent,” he said. “And then, they do what they want, anyway.” The attorney cited the recent, failed death penalty prosecution of Bonanno capo Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano as an example. In that case, the feds gave turncoat Mafia boss Joseph Massino (right) two lie detector tests about his claim that Vinny Gorgeous plotted to kill a prosecutor. Even after Massino failed both tests, the feds wired him up in an effort to get Basciano to implicate himself in a murder conspiracy against assistant U.S. attorney Greg Andres. “Not only do the feds have all the cards,” added the frustrated lawyer, “they stack the deck. And when that doesn’t work, they deal from the bottom of the deck.” That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but don’t expect the FBI or the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office to hook Persico up to a polygraph machine anytime soon. And as you might expect, spokesmen for both offices declined to comment about Persico’s quest for a lie detector test.

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May 6, 2004
THE SHOT THAT LOST THE WAR

May 26, 1997
CATERING CONS FEAST; GUARDS GO BELLY UP

May 10, 2001
SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES PIZZA

May 3, 1999
COLOMBO BOYS WIN THE WAR

May 10, 1999
WASHED UP MURDER PLOT

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But even without a polygraph, Persico says LIFE in his letter to prosecutor Busa that his WITHOUT HONOR claims of innocence are “backed up” by a tape-recorded conversation that May 25, 2006 then-capo Anthony (Big Anthony) Russo MICKEY BOY, THE had with wired-up Colombo informer Thomas McLaughlin last year, before Russo MOUTH THAT ROARED switched sides and teamed up with the feds. Sources say that during the discussion Big Anthony says that longtime Colombo family associates Edward (Tall Guy) Garofalo, Paul Meyers, and Robert Tarantola were involved in shooting Lafaro to death in front of his Bensonhurst, Brooklyn home – but does not implicate Persico in the slaying. Garofalo, 44, is awaiting trial on labor racketeering charges with Persico and his cousin, Michael Persico. Meyers, 47, is a reputed drug dealer. Tarantola, 46, a convicted drug dealer who was released from prison in 2003, was a Persico faction ally during the bloody 1991-93 family feud. Sources say that all three, as well as Teddy Persico, are targets of an ongoing investigation into the murder by Busa, who is unlikely to pay much attention to Persico’s letter. Meanwhile, at least one Persico pen pal wants off his list. Brooklyn Federal Judge Kiyo Matsumoto wasn’t thrilled to receive her own three page letter from Persico recently. The letter asked the judge to sever him from the 39-defendant indictment pending before her, and combine the charges against him to those in his pending labor racketeering case so he can resolve all his charges at one trial. In a terse reply Tuesday, Matsumoto directed defense attorney Jonathan Marks “to inform his client that all submissions and communications with the court must be made through counsel” or they will not be considered. Said Marks: “I have already made that request to the proper person at this point – the prosecutor – and am waiting to hear back from her.” Meanwhile, Judge Sandra Townes still hasn’t found someone to replace Perisco’s ousted attorney, Joseph Corozzo, as well as lawyers for two other defendants who have dropped out of the labor racketeering case. Through her courtroom deputy, she has indicated that the trial is likely to be adjourned until next year.

May 17, 1999

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Biz-Man: I Hired Tacopina For $20G; He Bedded My Wife
Red hot attorney Joseph Tacopina, who has been scoring big wins in court lately, was once accused of scoring with a client’s wife. The episode led to a divorce action in which the client – who had hired the handsome Tacopina to handle a federal grand jury subpoena – accused the barrister of bedding his wife instead of battling the feds, Gang Land has learned. The lawsuit was filed by the owner of a well-known Queens eatery who paid Tacopina a $20,000 fee to represent him – not as a subject or target of an investigation – but as a witness before the panel. Gang Land is withholding the name of the restaurateur, who has no criminal record, and is clearly a victim here. According to court papers, the businessman alleged that two months after he paid the attorney his hefty retainer fee, his wife of five years began meeting Tacopina in Manhattan hotels and having an affair with the always well-coiffed attorney. Here’s how the cuckolded chef put it in an affidavit: “In or about March, 2002, I hired a lawyer named Joseph Tacopina to represent me in that (grand jury) proceeding. Not more than two months after retaining Mr. Tacopina, I found out that my wife was having an affair with him. I found out that he had checked into various hotels in New York, and she met him at various hotel rooms.” In addition, the restaurant owner wrote, his wife’s “cell phone had made dozens of telephone calls to Mr. Tacopina, at all times of the day and night, and that she actively pursued him at his office and on his cell phone. Upon learning about this grievous breach of trust, I did two things: I fired Mr. Tacopina and I left my marital abode and went to live with my mother.” In his lawsuit, the husband alleged that his wife committed adultery with the attorney numerous times, including on August 8, 2002, when they enjoyed a tryst at a Manhattan hotel. Tacopina denied the allegations. But informed sources say that five days after the assignation, on August 13, 2002, the attorney agreed to refund the entire $20,000 fee on condition that the businessman “forego any claim or grievance” against Tacopina. In the agreement, obtained by Gang Land, Tacopina stated: “I am only agreeing to

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refund your legal fees in order to avoid any unnecessary and irksome dispute at some later stage.” The restaurant owner apparently made good on his promise. According to the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, there are no publicly filed reprimands or censures against Tacopina regarding the above incident, or any other complaint or grievance that may have been filed against him since he was admitted to the bar in 1992. Gang Land left detailed messages for both Tacopina and his attorney, Michael Ross, regarding the episode, but neither responded to requests for comment. Tacopina and his attorney also stayed mum last week when Gang Land called regarding assertions that in April, 2007 he began cooperating with the feds against lawyer Ronald Fischetti (left) in a fee-splitting and tax evasion probe. Fischetti branded the allegations as “not true.” No charges resulted from the two-year-long federal grand jury investigation, but word of Tacopina’s cooperation spread on the criminal defense gossip vine. Since then, wiseguys have shunned the flashy Tacopina despite major courtroom wins like the sensational acquittal of a police officer of rape charges last month. Sources say that Tacopina implicated Fischetti in wrongdoing at the same time he agreed to testify against his former client, scandal-plagued ex-NYPD police commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Prosecution Ploy Backfires; Mobster Skips Out Of Court
Wiseguy Anthony (Rom) Romanello skipped out of federal courtroom in Brooklyn this week. Not that the 73-year old Genovese soldier didn’t show up. He was just so happy to be released from house arrest by Judge I. Leo Glasser that he literally skipped out of the room in glee. The mobster had good reason not to act his age. First, on the eve of his racketeering and bookmaking trial, the feds hit him with a new indictment that added a gun charge. The last-minute filing came after Romanello rejected a 33-to-41 month plea deal and insisted on going to trial. The new charge potentially adds a mandatory five-year sentence on top of any other convictions. The popular prosecution tactic of adding serious extra charges just before trial is viewed on the defense side of the courtroom as a way for the feds to send “a message” to defendants to take offered plea deals or suffer additional,

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heavier charges. This week, however, the ploy backfired when prosecutors added the dubious gun charge to what was essentially a 12-year-old bookmaking rap against Romanello. In court, attorney Gerald McMahon argued that the gun charge – which alleges Romanello with aiding and abetting any of the more than 1200 members and associates of the Genovese family to possess a dangerous weapon from 1990 until 2006 – was so vague that it was impossible to defend, and should be dismissed on grounds of legal insufficiency. In addition to needing time to research that issue, McMahon argued that the new gun charge on the eve of trial caused an unnecessary delay to his client’s right to a speedy trial and smacked of prosecutorial vindictiveness, two additional theories to dismiss the entire case that he needed time to research. Glasser agreed, lifting Romanello’s bail restrictions of an ankle bracelet and home confinement, and adjourning the trial until September. Prosecutors Elizabeth Geddes and Kristin Mace, who are swamped with many pending cases five months after Mafia Takedown Day, readily agreed to the adjournment. But they objected to Rom’s release from house arrest, arguing that he was no less a danger than he was last fall. Glasser rejected those arguments, to the joy of Romanello’s two daughters, who were in court. The pair thanked McMahon and co-counsel Mathew Mari profusely, specifically on behalf of their mom, who was “overjoyed” that her husband “would not be stuck around the house all day long for the next few months.”

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