05 September 2014

The Capo's Son


by R.T. Lawton


As you may recall in The Godfather, Vito Corleone declined to do business with the Turk Sollozzo because Vito believed that trafficking in drugs was not a good idea. Such involvement in that business would bring heat on the family and then they would lose some of the judges and police who were in their pocket. That was the movie being shown in 1972.

In real life, many heads of mob families did have concerns about the stiff penalties to be had for becoming involved in the narcotics business. They feared that omerta as they knew it would cease to exist when family members started considering long years in prison versus ratting out their fellow traffickers. And, they were right, the first major member to testify against the mafia in America was a made man turned by the old Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

In 1971, when I was working Kansas City, Nick Civella was the local crime boss for that area. He'd been around for a long while, to include the ill-fated Appalachian meeting of mafia bosses. I never personally heard what Nick had to say about his men having any involvement in the drug business, but I soon got a pretty good idea what one of his capos thought.

By 1972, I'd been transferred over to a federal task force consisting of five feds and about twenty state and locals. My partner, Big Jim, was a KCMO vice cop. He had about fifteen or more years of time on the streets. As for me, I was looking at two, if I stretched. One Friday evening when arrest warrants were being handed out to be served, Jim and I ended up with paper for the son of one of the mob capos. Seems the boy had been indiscrete enough to sell several thousand mini-whites (amphetamine) to a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs guy. Jim said he would show me the best way to handle this situation. Fine by me.

We didn't go to the future defendant's residence, which is usually the first place to look for an arrestee. Instead, we drove out to a night club owned by the capo, parked in the lot, walked inside and sat down at a table. When the waitress inquired what we wanted to drink, we placed our order and then asked for the capo by name. She never batted an eye, as if it were an everyday occurrence. The drinks came fast, the capo took about ten minutes. As the capo stood by our table, Jim introduced himself and me, both of us still seated. We discretely showed our badges. Didn't want to spook the patrons or staff.

Jim proceeded to explain in a quiet voice that we had a federal arrest warrant in the capo's son's name for the illegal distribution of a controlled substance. Jim continued by stating that we came directly to him (the capo) rather than going to his house and unnecessarily disturbing his wife and the rest of his family. The capo stared at us in silence for a couple of moments and then stated that his son would be at our office in the federal building at 9 AM on Monday morning. Before he walked away, the capo thanked us for bringing this matter directly to his attention and said the drinks were on him.

I must've had a questioning look on my face because Jim chuckled before letting me know how these types of situations were taken care of. According to his theory, we left an amount of money on the table to cover the price of the drinks plus tip. The capo would not be offended because we had not blatantly rejected his offer, the waitress would be happy because she got a great tip and Big Jim and I, by leaving that much money on the table, could not be accused of accepting inappropriate gratuities. (In Basic Agents Training ethics class, the instructors stressed that it all started with something so simple as a free cup of coffee.) So, our actions sent a subtle message to the capo, plus made us look smart in his eyes because we had found a way around a potential dilemma and yet still got the job done with a minimum of problems.

And yes, the son did show up on time at the federal building. One thing I did notice that morning though was that he sported a fresh black eye. I guess his father was sending him and us his own message.

8 comments:

Fran Rizer said...

R.T., I could listen (I guess "read" is more accurate) to these events forever.
I doubt seriously that I ever write fiction about the Mafia or about drugs, but it's certainly interesting.

David Dean said...

Fascinating stuff and well told, R.T. In spite of being a Jersey cop I never dealt with any Mafiosi (that I'm aware of). Always interesting, you are. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I liked the backstory and the sequence of events. To get it right in a story, one either has to have worked it or research with someone who has been there, like RTL. As David Dean said "Fascinating stuff".

Eve Fisher said...

Now THAT'S the way things used to be done. Great story, R.T.

Leigh Lundin said...

That seems so sensible! And well done, too– I could picture it happening. Thanks, RT.

Dixon Hill said...

Great stuff as always, R.T.

Have you regaled us with tales of that "ill-fated Appalachian meeting of mafia bosses" in a past post? If so, I'm afraid I've mislaid my recollection of it. If not, please fill us in sometime. I'd love to read about it!

--Dixon

R.T. Lawton said...

Thanks to all for the encouraging comments.

Dix, I haven't posted about the mafia's Appalachian meeting where the heads of all the families gathered in what they considered to be a safe, out of the way place only to have the local police become suspicious about all the Italian hoods showing up in their quiet neighborhood. But who knows? Maybe in the future.

Stephen Ross said...

Late comment, I know (catching up on my reading). That was great, RT!