Filthy murderous mobsters are no Goodfellas
It doesn’t matter if these days they’re modern boardroom businessmen in Ermenegildo Zegna suits and Bally shoes. They’re still the Mafia, and they’ll still mug you.
This week the US Department of Justice and the FBI released a series of documents reminding us the Mafia – aka La Cosa Nostra, the Mob, or as insiders call it, “This Thing of Ours” – really are not such nice people, even if they know good meatball recipes and are nice to children.
The DoJ and the FBI announced indictments against 13 individuals, being a combination of mobsters, lawyers and accountants, most of who were arrested in coordinated raids on Wednesday morning. This particular scam allegedly worked like this:
You are an honest business person, on the board of a large and profitable publically listed company in Texas. It’s called the FirstPlus Financial Group Inc. The company’s got a lot of cash and attracts the attention of a dodgy lawyer from Dallas, who calls his mob friends in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
You, the honest board member, get an offer too good to refuse: you are to resign from the board. And you are to told persuade all the other FPFG board members to resign as well. If you and the others don’t resign, they’ll spread false allegations that you are stealing from the company.
And if that doesn’t work, well, there could be a series of unfortunate accidents…
“Eventually, through threats and intimidation, every member of the board and executive management left,” the FBI said.
New board members, appointed by the Mob, step in. They plunder the company of its capital by buying worthless shelf companies for millions of dollars and by paying “consultants” hundreds of thousands of dollars for work they have not done.
This new board allegedly fitted itself out with Bentleys, jewels, speedboats and houses.
This company, now in the control of the Mob, cruises along, filing false security exchange reports, lying to shareholders. And they sent the company bankrupt, ripping $12m off shareholders.
It’s no different to hijacking a truck carrying cigarettes or cow carcasses at a 1962 Brooklyn intersection.
It appears the whole thing came apart when one of the original board members decided to talk.
One of the alleged ring leaders, Nicky Scarfo, is a “made man” who headed up the Lucchese crime family.
His dad, Nicodemo, is an old style Philadelphia mobster boss, currently in a federal prison in Atlanta, for (depending on who you believe) 12 to 16 murders. He’s been away a long time and he’ll never get out. His recipes for a basic tomato, garlic and meatball sauce must by now be very good indeed.
They’re a weird Mob. Not even after three “Godfather” films could you say you ever liked actually liked Michael Corleone.
In honour of these thoughts, I took myself to Green-Wood cemetery, set on 193 hectares of beautiful rolling hills in the middle of semi-industrial Brooklyn, to see what had become of Joey Gallo.
Some of the Green-Wood residents have granite crypts big enough to house a whole family. Joey Gallo’s got a small concrete slab that he shares with two brothers, Larry and Albert “Kid Blast” Gallo.
To beatnik New Yorkers, Joey Gallo was cool. He wore Raybans, dressed natty, and hung out in cafes reading Jean-Paul Satre, Albert Camus, Friedrich Nietzsche and Wilhelm Reich. He’d picked up his reading habits in prison.
He was also an extortionist and a killer. But he didn’t kill or extort beatniks, so they liked him.
After he was gunned down in a clam bar in New York’s Little Italy, in 1972, by members of the Colombo crime family, Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy wrote “Joey”, a laborious and mournful 11 minute and five second anthem that opened the B-side of the album Desire, which was released in 1976.
The song, which describes Joey’s funeral here on a hill in the south-western corner of Green—Wood cemetery, concludes with the peace—loving songwriters calling for revenge, saying that the men who killed Gallo “will get what they deserve”.
Joey’s family was already onto it. The funeral, which was wired by the FBI, recorded sister Carmella saying over Joey’s coffin: “The streets are going to run red with blood, Joey!”
And the streets did run red. But not for Joey Gallo. A hit man was sent to a noodle bar on New York’s upper east side, having been told the men who shot Joey were eating there. He shot four people – the wrong people, four Jewish butchers who had nothing to do with any of it. Two of them died.
None of this was mentioned in the song.
Lester Bangs, the dead rock critic, called the song “Joey” among “the most mindlessly amoral pieces of repellent romanticist bullshit ever recorded”.
Bangs said Gallo was a murderous thug. He spanked Dylan and Levy for being two little boys who’d found a big gun in their daddy’s sock drawer and didn’t know how to use it.
The song was a hymn to a supposedly misunderstood gangster, and was meant to give the songwriters some slightly dangerous mafia—chic street cred. But it wrongly anticipated that Joe Gallo would become a modern folk hero—Ned Kelly in Brooklyn. It didn’t work out that way.
Joey’s no Oscar Wilde, whose grave in Paris is covered with lipstick kisses. He’s not even Bon Scott, who tiny headstone in Fremantle is usually covered with little plastic toys.
At first, I couldn’t find the old mobster’s resting place. A bush grows over the tombstone. Someone’s recently visited and put a Christmas wreath on the Gallo family plot, but the grave is otherwise untended.
I had to scrape off leaf litter and dirt to find Joey’s name.
Joey Gallo and his grave are forgotten. The cool people who liked hanging out with the killer, they don’t come to see Joey no more.
Paul Toohey’s American Story appears in News Ltd’s iPad edition every Saturday.
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