Tag Archives: True Crime

Paul Castellano’s Last Day

Salvatore Gravano, a made member of the Gambino crime family, walked into a room with a heart shaped bed. The sheets were red velvet. Mirrors lined the ceiling.

This was no romantic getaway. Gravano had just murdered the most powerful mob boss in the country. Now he was on the run.

In an engrossing episode of the Our Thing podcast, Sammy the Bull describes the murder of Paul Castellano and its aftermath.

The love nest Sammy found himself in belonged to Joe Watts, a fellow soldier. Sammy and his crew hid there after the hit, bracing for the war they were sure was coming.

Gravano, exhausted, took the couch instead. His fatigue after the hit is a strange parallel to Irish mobster Whitey Bulger, who often slept after his many murders.

This is the biggest hit of all time.

Frankie DeCicco

The war never came. The Castellano hit had been conducted brazenly amid the crowds in Midtown Manhattan. Anyone who had a problem with Gotti and Gravano kept their mouths shut, afraid to meet to same fate.

John Gotti was made boss of the Gambino family in the basement of a school. A fellow mobster had a connection there.

I picture the children who came the next day, never knowing what happened.

More on the mafia:

‘THEY GOTTA GO’: GRAVANO ON THE CASTELLANO HIT

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

HOFFA MURDER SUSPECT TONY PRO’S UNION HALL

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‘They Gotta Go’: Gravano on the Castellano Hit

Gambino family boss Paul Castellano had a problem: he couldn’t get hot water in his shower. The mansion he had built on Staten Island’s Todt Hill was so large that water cooled in the pipes before it could reach the bathroom.

The contractor he got to help him was a rising star in the Gambino family: Salvatore Gravano. Gravano had his men wrap heating coils around the pipes, and the problem was fixed.

Castellano couldn’t have known that the man who fixed his shower would one day murder him.

On this fascinating episode of the Our Thing podcast, Gravano breaks down how the notorious murder of Castellano, the most high profile crime boss in the country, happened. Castellano would be killed outside the exclusive Sparks Steakhouse on Manhattan’s 46th Street. The hit was planned meticulously for months and the shooters even obtained walkie talkies to communicate outside Sparks.

As the day of the murder approached, Gravano and Gambino consigliere Frankie DeCicco hid in the maid’s quarters of an associate’s home in Staten Island, practically under Castellano’s nose. And their scheming went beyond killing Castellano. Should John Gotti, who would become boss after the hit, not cooperate with them, they would kill him as well.

“This is a do or die hit.”

Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano

On December 16, 1985, a group of men in white jackets and distinctive fur hats began to approach Sparks. Castellano and his driver, Tommy Bilotti, pulled within a few feet of Gotti and Gravano on the narrow Manhattan streets. But they never noticed Gotti or Gravano, who directed the hit and was also there as a backup shooter.

Uniforms, radio communications, reserve forces: the hit had a military precision. Castellano and Bilotti were quickly shot to death, making John Gotti the boss of the Gambino family.

In this podcast, Gravano portrays Gotti as a reckless loudmouth, even as the late Gotti no longer has any chance to defend himself. It’s hard to know how accurate his account is, but it’s certainly entertaining!

More on the mafia:

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

HOFFA MURDER SUSPECT TONY PRO’S UNION HALL

A NOTORIOUS MOB INFORMANT’S HOBOKEN HEADQUARTERS

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Hoffa Murder Suspect Tony Pro’s Union Hall

On July 30, 1975, James R. Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, disappeared without a trace. In 1982, he was declared dead. No body has ever been found.

A prime suspect in that disappearance was Teamsters Local 560 President Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano. In fact, Hoffa was actually on the way to meet Tony Pro when he disappeared.

Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano

A member of the Genovese crime family, Tony Pro ruled Local 560 with an iron fist. Anyone who opposed him had a way of winding up dead.

Tony Pro’s union hall

Hoffa and Provenzano’s beef seems to date from prison. Whether Tony Pro had other reasons for wanting Hoffa dead isn’t known.

Today, I went in search of the remains of this history. Tony Pro’s Local 560 Union Hall is in Union City, NJ, a town that was once heavily Italian but is now mostly Hispanic. Though it has changed since Tony Pro’s day, its working class roots are very much intact. Nearby are Tonnelle Avenue and the Lincoln Tunnel, where many of Local 560’s members drive their trucks every day.

Looking at the door to the union hall, I imagined a small, bespectacled man leaving at the end of the day with a sheaf of papers. Who would think he had the power that he did?

Tony Pro’s habit of disappearing anyone who got in his way eventually caught up with him when he had the local’s treasurer, Anthony Castellito, murdered at his country home in the Catskills. Like Hoffa’s, his body was never found. But years later, an informant tipped the FBI to Tony Pro’s involvement, and Tony went to federal prison, where he died in 1988 of heart failure.

More on the mafia in New Jersey:

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

BADA BING’S REAL-LIFE MOB CONNECTIONS

A NOTORIOUS MOB INFORMANT’S HOBOKEN HEADQUARTERS

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

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The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Hoboken’s Most Powerful Gangster

Inside a low-slung building surrounded by trees in southern Minnesota, there is an old man. Now ailing and in his 90’s, he was once one of the most powerful members of the American mafia. This building is Federal Medical Center Rochester. This man is Louis “Bobby” Manna.

Genovese family consigliere Louis “Bobby” Manna, right

Manna was born in Hoboken in 1929 and, by the 80’s, he had reached the pinnacle of the underworld: consigliere in the Genovese crime family. Of the family’s 14 capos, 4 operated in New Jersey and reported to Manna directly. His empire included a $20 million a year gambling ring, the largest port on the east coast, garbage contracts, and union corruption that netted millions more in ill-gotten gains.

Manna ran this empire from Casella’s Restaurant in Hoboken, a bunker-like structure with almost no legitimate clientele. There, he met with his capos and ruled on disputes. Even corrupt police officers came there to pay their respects.

But despite Manna’s power, all was not well for the Genovese family’s vast operations in the Garden State. John Gotti, leader of the larger Gambino family, wanted a piece. After the Bruno/Scarfo family of Philadelphia fell on hard times, Gotti insisted on taking their lucrative South Jersey rackets, leaving only the less profitable territory in the north to Manna and the Genovese.

Manna couldn’t accept this. He was also incensed by Gotti’s murder of the prior Gambino boss, Paul Castellano, in blatant violation of Cosa Nostra’s rules. As the summer of 1987 faded into fall, Manna began to plan Gotti’s murder.

With lookouts everywhere and his own soldier as the owner, Manna felt comfortable at Casella’s. Perhaps a little too comfortable. He spoke openly of killing Gotti, even using Gotti’s full name and instructing his lieutenants in detail how to murder the Gambino boss.

Perhaps so used to power, Manna destroyed himself by his brazeness. An FBI bug picked up the conversation, along with many others. Manna was convicted of multiple murder plots and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 under the RICO Act.

Manna’s story has an intriguing postscript: in his 90’s and facing the coronavirus pandemic, he petitioned the court to release him to live out his last days with his stepson in Bayonne, NJ. A Change.org petition even circulated to spring the elderly convict from prison.

Federal Judge Peter Sheridan ruled against Manna in December 2020, likely consigning him to death behind bars.

Shortly therafter, his former headquarters was demolished to make way for a park.

More interesting spots in New Jersey:

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This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

The Mafia’s Hoboken Fortress

On a narrow street at the edge of town sits a squat brick building. There are no windows. On the street, lookouts watch for unfamiliar faces. The few who do enter are carefully watched.

Inside: the headquarters of the most powerful mafia family in this country.

This is Casella’s Restaurant in Hoboken, NJ. In the 1980’s, it functioned as home to the Genovese crime family. Law enforcement attention had made the Genovese family’s usual haunts in Little Italy uncomfortable, and much of the family decamped to New Jersey to meet.

Casella’s as it once was

Casella’s was owned by Genovese soldier Martin “Mots” Casella, but the real power belonged to Louis “Bobby” Manna, consigliere of the Genovese family. As one of the top leaders, Manna held numerous meetings at this bunker-like restaurant. Another fixture was Hoboken bookie Peter “Petey Cap” Caporino, whose own social club was a few blocks away.

Genovese family consigliere Louis “Bobby” Manna

In 1987, Manna began to plot the murder of Gambino family boss John Gotti. He made those plans where he felt most comfortable: at Casella’s. Gotti had broken mafia rules by killing prior Gambino boss Paul Castellano. The Gambino family was also the Genovese’s biggest rival.

Before the hit could be carried out, the FBI tipped Gotti to the danger, likely saving his life. But how did the FBI know about the plan in the first place?

Shortly before Manna hatched the plot to murder Gotti, the FBI had done what they previously thought impossible: placed a bug inside Casella’s. It gave them the planning of the Gotti hit, the murder of associate Irwin Schiff, and a lot more.

Manna and other top Genovese members were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in a trial that was a who’s who of future political stars: NJ Attorney General Samuel Alito went on to become a Supreme Court Justice, federal prosecutor Michael Chertoff became Secretary of Homeland Security, and the judge happened to be future president Donald Trump’s elder sister.

Casella’s today

After a sale, closures due to code violations, and a fire that destroyed the apartments above, Casella’s was finally demolished at the end of 2020. All that remains of this intriguing piece of history is a vacant lot.

I wish I could visit the old Casella’s and order a plate of pasta…if they’d let me in.

More interesting spots in New Jersey:

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

A Notorious Mob Informant’s Hoboken Headquarters

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.

Peter “Petey” Caporino

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:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.