A slight, bespectacled man with white hair sits behind a table, going over today’s bets. At his side: a beeper. You might not even notice it.
Inside the beeper is a tiny microphone. This unassuming bookie in a nondescript storefront is about to take down the most powerful organized crime family in this country.
Peter “Petey” Caporino, a Hoboken native, got into running numbers while working for a trucking company, taking bets from the drivers. He later expanded into a growing numbers racket. It got so big that he needed protection, and the Genovese crime family came to his aid. For a price.
Petey operated his business out of the Character Club and Resolute Club 404 in Hoboken, NJ. Business was good…perhaps a little too good. Caporino’s operation caught the attention of the FBI, who threatened him and his wife with prison unless he cooperated. Caporino didn’t want to see his wife go to jail and worried over who would care for his disabled daughter. So he agreed to cooperate. Caporino fed the FBI information for 18 years, severely weakening the Genovese family.
This week, I went in search of the remains of this shadowy world. My first stop was the Resolute Club 404, at 404 Madison Street. The building seems to have changed little over the years, although 404 is now a private residence. Next door is an appropriately clandestine-looking members only club:
I imagined Petey there, quietly recording everything and probably terrified that these gangsters would discover his secret and kill him. Next, I stopped at what was the Character Club at 111 Monroe St:
Like so much of Hoboken, it has become high end condominiums. All the more reason to search out this history before it disappears completely.
Here’s how it looked in Petey’s day:
Caporino’s testimony led to the conviction of 16 high level mafia members. His tapes provided evidence on bookmaking, loan sharking, and even murder.
Despite this reprieve from punishment, Caporino couldn’t seem to leave the life. Just a few years later he was arrested for bookmaking yet again. In a sign of the mafia’s dwindling power, he had been able to simply continue his business much as before, despite testifying against top mobsters.
Caporino wound up in prison after all, and after his sentence, his trail runs cold. But if you stand outside the Resolute Club, you can almost imagine him coming and going, beeper always at his side.
Have a great weekend everyone!
More interesting spots in NJ:
- Visiting Uncle Junior’s Headquarters from The Sopranos
- Christopher Moltisanti Hit Rock Bottom at This Diner
- A Hidden Castle…In New Jersey?
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