Echoes of Mob War Reverberate 15 Years Later
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The bloody Colombo family mob war that left 12 dead and many others wounded on the streets of New York 15 years ago came back to haunt mob associate Michael “Mikey Spat”Spataro last week.
Spataro was allegedly there on the morning of November 18, 1991, when the notorious William “Wild Bill” Cutolo crew fired the first shots of what would be a two-year conflict against rival capo Gregory Scarpa.
Three years later, Mikey Spat also was present when Cutolo and five other crew members won an astounding acquittal of racketeering and murder charges stemming from the family feud.
Last week, however, as a federal prosecutor evoked the bloodletting in which two innocent bystanders were among those killed, Spataro was hit with a staggering 28-year sentence for being part of a botched mob rub-out five years ago.
In a theatric effort to establish Mikey Spat’s links to the Cutolo crew’s propensity for violence, which included two slayings in the early days of the carnage, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Seigel held up a blue ski mask that was recovered when cops arrested Spataro on weapons charges in December 1991.
“He wasn’t planning to use this on a trip to the Alps,” Mr. Seigel said with derision.
In meting out the heavy prison term — three years longer than what the convicted shooter received — Brooklyn federal Judge Sterling Johnson dismissed Spataro’s claims that he had been wrongly convicted in the July 16, 2001, shooting of mobster Joseph “Joe Campy” Campanella. After listening patiently for about 10 minutes as Mikey Spat spouted out portions of the trial record and cited what he said were inconsistencies between the testimony of Campanella and other evidence, Judge Johnson cut him short. “Save that for your appeal,” the judge said.
Spataro, 39, was found guilty of driving an armed gunman, mobster Vincent “Chickie” DeMartino, 51, to a rendezvous with the wheelman in the plot, in which DeMartino fired five shots from a .357 Magnum, hitting Campanella twice as he left the beach at Coney Island and walked toward his car.
According to evidence at the trial, as the getaway van sped away a minute after the failed rub-out, DeMartino used his cell phone to call Spataro and report the bad news: “Mike, we missed.”
In their heyday under Cutolo 10 years earlier, Joe Campy, Chickie, and Mikey Spat were closely aligned with acting boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena when the shooting war against loyalists of imprisoned family boss Carmine “Junior” Persico began with an ambush attack against Scarpa near his Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, home.
By 2001, however, when DeMartino, Spatoro, and then-cohort Giovanni “John The Barber” Floridia tried to gun down Campanella, the Colombo family landscape had changed dramatically.
Persico’s handpicked successor, his son Alphonse, was firmly in charge, having allegedly engineered the May 1999 murder of Cutolo, whose body has never been found. DeMartino and Spataro had gone along and were firmly aligned with Alphonse. Campanella was marked for death as a turncoat, which he ultimately became after surviving the rub-out attempt.
As his former cohorts stew in prison, the sun-loving Joe Campy, who served a three-year prison stretch before hitting the streets again, has undoubtedly found a replacement beach away from the sandy shores of Coney Island as he waits his return to Brooklyn Federal Court.
This fall, he’s slated to testify at the racketeering-murder trial of Alphonse Persico and John “Jackie” DeRoss, who are charged with Cutolo’s murder. DeRoss and his nephew, associate Carmine “Skippy” DeRoss, are also charged with conspiring to kill Campanella.
Speaking of the reputed Colombo mob chieftain, we erred a few weeks ago when we listed Persico as a mob leader who was hit with racketeering charges within the last two years as he neared the end of a prison term. Indicted in 2004, Persico isn’t slated for release until 2012.
And speaking of the Colombo war, the stunning acquittal on war-related racketeering and murder charges for Wild Bill Cutolo and six crew members in 1994 was a milestone event with farreaching ramifications that are still playing out in the Brooklyn courts.
The huge defeat for the feds was rooted in the controversial relationship between a murderous Persico faction loyalist, Greg Scarpa, and an FBI supervisor, R. Lindley DeVecchio, for whom Scarpa had doubled as a topechelon informer for more than a dozen years.
At the Cutolo trial, defense lawyers argued that their clients were defending themselves against Scarpa, who used intelligence information supplied by DeVecchio to kill four Orena faction members during the bloody conflict.
Cutolo, who sat stone-faced as the jury announced its verdict after only 12 hours of deliberation on December 20, 1994, broke into a broad grin as he walked out of court with his wife, Marguerite, and gushed, “It’s my best Christmas present ever.”
Seven months later, two sons of Little Vic Orena and five others used similar trial tactics to beat their own racketeering and murder charges. Ever since, lawyers for the elder Orena, who was convicted of racketeering and murder in 1992 — before allegations of wrongdoing surfaced against DeVecchio — have sought, and failed, to win a new trial for the one-time acting boss.
DeVecchio, who was cleared in 1996 of any wrongdoing after a federal inquiry, was charged by a Brooklyn grand jury last March with aiding Scarpa to commit four Brooklyn murders between 1984 and 1992. DeVecchio and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office are waiting for a Brooklyn federal judge to decide whether the case should be tried in state or federal court.
Meanwhile, Angela Clemente, the New Jersey mother of three hailed by the district attorney’s office as the catalyst for the indictment against DeVecchio, still hasn’t sat down with police sketch artists to create a likeness of the suspect she claims assaulted her during a bizarre confrontation at a Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, shopping center five weeks ago.
“For one reason or another, she hasn’t been able to make it. I hope she doesn’t forget what he looks like,” said one Brooklyn detective, who questioned her account of the early-morning incident that left her battered and bruised at the Caesar’s Bay parking lot.
Ms. Clemente did not respond to Gang Land inquiries for comment.
After spending more than two years behind bars in Quebec, Bonanno capo Vito Rizzuto, labeled by Canadian prosecutors the “Godfather of the Italian American Mafia in Montreal,”is expected to be extradited to America tomorrow to stand trial for the 1981 murders of three capos in a Brooklyn social club.
The Supreme Court of Canada, which is expected to uphold several lower court rulings ordering Rizzuto’s extradition, has announced that it will decide the matter on Friday.
According to court records, Rizzuto, 60, was one of four gunmen who hid in a closet and shot the capos to death in an elaborate scheme orchestrated by then-capo Joseph Massino.
This column and other news of organized crime will appear later today at ganglandnews.com.