Showing posts with label mafia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mafia. Show all posts

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.

14 August 2014

Bluegrass Mafia

by Eve Fisher

Well, Leigh, you opened up a can of worms last week, and I guess it's Mafia week at SleuthSayers.  I have three stories, two of which are legendary in my family.

My grandparents emigrated from Greece back in at the beginning of the 1900's, and of course they lived in New York, and ended up - double of course - in Astoria. For those of you who don't know, Astoria has long been the Greek neighborhood of NYC.  To this day, when we go visit some (Italian) friends who live there, they send me out to get the breakfast bagels, because I always come back with freebies, beginning with extra bagels.  I guess that the bakery owner assumes that I'm Aunt Eudoxia's niece or something...

File:New York City - Upper West Side Brownstone.jpg
(Disclaimer:  Not my
grandparents'
brownstone)
Anyway, my grandfather had been a teacher back in Athens, or so I'm told, but in New York, he was a truck driver.  By the time I got to know him, it was the 1950's, and my parents and I would go up to visit them in their brownstone.  Yes, you read that right.  A nice big corner brownstone in Astoria, Queens, which they'd bought in the 1930s.  After they died, I found the address (they moved from there in the 1960's, making, I'm sure, a tidy profit) and my husband and I went by and saw it.  Very nice.  An Egyptian family lives there now, I believe.

I asked my father, when I got old enough to understand how expensive a brownstone is, how on earth was my grandfather able to afford to buy one back in the 1930s?  He said, "Well, he did a favor for someone with money.  Got him a nice little truck route, and the brownstone."  Who was the someone with money?  Someone named Gambino.  I asked my father, "What kind of favor did he do?"  "No idea.  We didn't ask questions."

Second story, not mine, which I mentioned in the comments section on Leigh's column:  The Mafia has made some very interesting investments.  Developments in Florida and elsewhere.  Casinos everywhere.  And also utility companies, in parts of the southeast.  There was a man from the Midwest who worked for one of the power companies and went down to the southeast in what he thought would be a career move to manage a local utility company.  He was back in six months, thankful to be out of there... unharmed.

Third story.  There's a town in Kentucky, with a population of not quite 7,000 people, which has one of the best authentic Italian restaurants you can find anywhere.  My husband and I took my father there for dinner one time - we were on a road trip, long story - and the food was excellent.  Or at least my husband's and mine was.  My father occasionally liked to throw his weight around in restaurants and other establishments, and he began to complain, loudly, about his dish.  And asked to see the manager.

File:Lasagne - stonesoup.jpgThe manager came over.  He was obviously Italian; he was obviously not a cook; he was obviously completely indifferent about what customers - or at least us - thought of him.  He listened to my father, looked at his plate, and said, "I don't have time for this shit.  Get out of here."

Tone of voice is everything, because my father got up and went.

Out in the car, my father started fretting and fuming about how he was treated.  "Why didn't we do something?  Why didn't we argue back?"

"Because," I told him, "he was Mafia."
"He was?" my father asked.
I nodded.  "Yes, he was."
And he was quiet the whole rest of the trip. At least about that.

11 August 2014

G-Mama and the Mafia

by Fran Rizer


My post for today has been ready for weeks, so I felt pretty good when I arose yesterday and, coffee cup in hand, went to the computer to see what Leigh had to say.  I confess I wasn't expecting to read about one of his exes being formerly a mob moll.  This was especially amusing since last week, my grandson told me, "Dad says you used to date someone who was in the Mafia."

Dilemma: Is that a story I really want to share with SSers?
  
Answer:  Yep, I think I will.  Note that my author photo today is from the time in my life that this occurred.  

It happened like this:

My older son was sixteen; the younger, eleven. They'd been taking karate lessons across town, so when a dojo opened near our townhouse, we visited.  The tall, good-looking sensei/proprietor was very convincing, and I moved the boys' lessons to his studio. Unlike Leigh, I'm not using real names, so I'll just call him John.


A few weeks later, John began joining me on the bleachers after my sons' lessons. He spoke glowingly of their progress and we discussed life as single parents. We also talked about how to build his business through a promotional campaign for the karate lessons and the aerobics classes upstairs.  

Next came an invitation to dinner, which I thought was a business meeting to discuss the PR plan. During the evening, I wasn't quite sure what to think. He acted more like we were having a date than a business meeting, but the conversation kept going back to plans for the dojo. At the end of the night, when he went for the inevitable goodnight kiss, I was still confused.

John was handsome. He was charming.  He took up a lot of time with my sons. In June, he confessed to me that he was having a hard time with the dojo rent, but that he would be receiving a substantial financial settlement from an accident in just a few weeks.

Can you believe that I was dumb enough to lend him a thousand dollars? The only reason I had a thousand to spare was that I drew three months' pay as a lump sum at the beginning of the summer.

Weeks rolled by and I saw more and more things about John that I disliked. For one, he had my sixteen-year-old son teaching younger students. It began with his just doing warm-up exercises with them. Soon he was teaching the entire class time. John told the kids' parents that my son was a black belt, which he was not. I've never liked liars.  

Every time I asked about his "settlement," John told me he would be getting it soon. Now, I've never liked liars, but I didn't say I'd never lied. After all, I was essentially in training to become a fiction writer later in life.

On a Monday afternoon in August, I told John that he had to return my money by Friday because I'd borrowed it from someone who was becoming very impatient causing me to be frightened. I never said it, but I implied that I'd gotten the thousand from a loan shark. Tuesday afternoon, John told me that he didn't think he'd be able to pay me anytime soon.  He didn't seem overly concerned. He acted like it was my problem, and I'd have to deal with it.

Wednesday afternoon, the owner of a deli that I did bookkeeping for called John. He was a big Greek man from somewhere up North, had the lowest voice of anyone I ever knew, and said the following, word for word: 

I have a problem, John. I loaned some money to a young woman who can't pay it back  It turns out she got that money for you. I'll be taking care of this matter this weekend unless she puts that money in my hand Friday at lunchtime. You need to understand that I'm not going after her. I'll be settling up with you. I don't like men who take advantage of women.

Those are the exact words that were spoken. I know because my Greek friend read them exactly as I'd written them on an index card for him. John spluttered around trying to negotiate, but the phone line went dead. The big, bad karate master dang near wet his gi.

Rain was pouring mid-morning Friday, but John came running out to my car when I pulled up in front of the dojo. He couldn't put the money in my hand fast enough. I even asked him if he'd like to ride with me, but he was adamant that he had too much to do. I killed a few hours at the library and then stopped at a florist before heading back to the dojo.

My drama skills were in full play when I returned.  I motioned for John to join me in the office.  

Closing the door behind us frantically, John asked, "Is it okay? He's not coming here, is he?"

I handed John a single red rose and said, "He said to give you this, and you'd better be damn glad it's red and not white."

That's the end of the story if I rewrite and try to sell it, but since we're friends, I'll tell you the rest.

My sons returned to lessons at their original karate location. Neither objected. They even said, "We were learning more there."

John called a few times, and I always made some excuse not to see him.  Three months later, his business closed. Six months later, I ran into the former aerobics instructor from John's studio at the mall. She told me that he'd disappeared while owing her husband several thousand dollars including their last loan to him when he swore the Mafia was after him. 

End of story?  Not yet.

A few years later, I'm in the kitchen preparing dinner when my younger son calls, "Hey, Mom, come here. John's on the news."

He'd been arrested for conning several women out of money by setting up a photography studio and advertising for models, who were then giving him their student loan money to advance their careers. I think there was probably more to the story than that, but I changed the channel.

Now, how does this relate to writing fiction? I hadn't thought about that crazy summer for years until my grandson said his dad told him I dated someone in the Mafia.

I questioned my son about it and he said that John had told him, "Your mom has a boyfriend in the Mafia."
My grandson and his dad, my older son


When I told them the entire story, both my son and grandson had a big laugh over G-Mama conning a con man. Leigh's column yesterday inspired me to begin writing this tale as a short story.  Of course, I always "embroider" real events, so the protagonist might become the aerobics teacher (change aerobics to zumba to update it) and the older Greek man could be her grandfather.   

What about you?  Are some of your stories semi-autobiographical?

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

10 August 2014

Disorganized Crime

mafia
History Channel: The Mafia in the US
by Leigh Lundin

RT’s article reminded me of an acquaintance who opened to me the shadowy world of organized crime. She had been ‘Married to the Mob,’ which, she said, was the most accurate movie portraying the mafia. She insisted upon seeing Goodfellas and the Godfather franchise, although she said The Godfather represented the 1%. The reality of the remaining 99% was a banality that only boys who never grew up could buy into.

Carlotta had been intimate with the Youngstown Mafia and knew the players. She was smart, educated, talented, and charming beyond belief. Following her decision to leave Youngstown and its dark side, she went to a great deal of trouble to quietly distance herself from her former life.

When she registered her car in Florida, the sweet lady behind the counter said, “Oh my, Ohio made a mistake recording your VIN on the title, dear. Honey, just fill out this affidavit…” She rolled her eyes at me as if to say, “You can leave that world but it still follows you.” She had bought the car at a deep discount from a connected dealer named Baglier. His body was later found in the trunk of one of his own vehicles towed from a swamp.

She talked about the protocols. No self-respecting 'made guy' would drive a foreign car, only a Caddy, Lincoln, maybe a Buick or a Corvette if he wanted sporty. Mafioso banked at Bank of America, because BoA was the original mafia banker (and still is, according to some). And in a city where citizens simply disappeared from the offices, their cars, and their dinner tables, the mafia first sent their victims a white rose.

Carlotta refused to shop at a couple of major Orlando malls that she contended were mafia laundry machines. I later bumped into a young woman who owned a shop in one of the malls where she often worked late. She mentioned seeing cash register drawers and a safe carted out in the middle of the night. Once as she was leaving her shop, she startled a handful of suited men who directed her away. “Girly, why don’t you go back to your shop for ten minutes.” (You no doubt noticed I’ve not mentioned the developer’s well-known name because to my knowledge he was often accused but never indicted for any crime.)

Carlotta went to school with the mall developer's son and with Mickey Monus, the CFO of Phar-mor, noted for the largest US embezzlement on record. She was acquainted with James Traficant, the flamboyant Ohio congressman and former corrupt sheriff who ran for office from his prison cell. All connected.

mafia
Even Kosovo feels the heat of the Mafia.
Those were the bigger guys.

Carlotta described the mafia as a corporate pyramid. While the so-called ‘foot soldiers’ were low on the totem pole, below them were the teeming worker-bees and wanna-bees, less than pawns in most cases. Picture the hoods in high school who drove around all night talking big, catcalling girls, vandalizing, committing petty larceny and break-ins, initiating a burglary or a spur-of-the-moment home invasion. Now picture those same guys ten, twenty, thirty years later doing the same thing, riding around, talking trash, doing trashy crap. That’s the vast majority of the mafia base: furnishings that fell off a truck, a little grift and graft here, a spot of muscle there, say ten ‘Hail Mary’s and lie to your wife. The boys retell the same stories– the knife fight they almost won a dozen years ago or that time when their dad was being chased by cops and he slipped the smoking gun to their nonna who sat on it, knitting as police conducted a fruitless search.

Night after night, year after year, same-ol’, same-ol’.

Many Italians are offended by the mafia. At New York University, I dated a vivacious student from Brooklyn. Cecilia Mongiardo lived down the street from a mafia headquarters in a warehouse. She said, “Italy is steeped in great history. It’s known for magnificent art, music, and cuisine. We invented modern architecture. We’re noted for design. Yet when people think Italians, they think mafia: Joe Bananas, Masseria and Maranzano, Genovese and Gambino, Gagliano and Lucchese. People think Vegas and Frank Sinatra and the assassination of JFK. It’s embarrassing.”

It’s a shadowy world most of us are unaware of. When writers like R.T. Lawton and David Dean bring us stories of their battles against crime, only then do we get a peek behind that dark curtain.