By Thom L. Jones
In those last few seconds, as his life was disappearing like an evanescent breath, nothing to protect him, no salvation at hand, his thoughts must have been perhaps his wife and children; his family to be torn apart by his sudden and awful ending. Did he cry out in frustration at the inevitability of this act of duplicity locking him into this act of ultimate violence; or the venal manoeuvre that enticed him into a cul-de-sac from which there could be no escape? The ultimate treachery which was the hallmark of his chosen profession. Maybe in that split-second he had a glimpse of his older brother, Andimo, dying on the roadway, in front of his home. The shotgun blooming into his face like the orange belch from some dragon of death; killed because he stood in the way, just as he had now found himself. Maybe he saw all those men whose lives had been foreclosed by a bank that offered no line of credit other than the certainty that debts had to be paid, in full, on the due date. Perhaps in that last and fleeting moment, he embraced the finality, but still could not accept the reason.
‘Why are you hitting me?’ he screamed out in despair.
Saturday, May 13, 1989, dawned as a soft, spring day in New York. Michael Pappadio was awake early; he had a lot to do. The next day was Mother’s Day, and also his birthday. He would be sixty-seven.
Dressing casually in a yellow polo shirt, tan slacks and a yellow wind-cheater, he pulled on a pair of white sneakers. He had suffered a stroke in August, 1982, which had left him with a permanent limp in his right leg, and he found the soft, leather casual trainers, more comfortable than shoes.
His wife was organizing a celebration-bash for later in the afternoon, at their big, comfortable, colonial-style home on Little Neck Boulevard in the gated Bayside Gables Community in Queens. There would be a barbecue, out in the backyard, starting about lunch time, celebrating his special day and Mother’s Day, and all their family and some close friends had been invited.
A little after 8.30 am, he and Frances left their home and drove in the Mercedes-Benz to 35th Avenue and Bell Boulevard. Here, Michael asked his wife to drop him off at The Great Bay Diner where he told her he was going for a coffee, before heading next door to the produce store to pick up fruit and vegetables. They agreed to meet in an hour, and Frances drove off to do her own shopping. She returned about 10 am, but Michael was not waiting for her. She checked the store and diner, and being unable to find him, assumed one of her four children must have collected him. She drove home.
But Michael was not at home. Frances rang her children and they agreed to come over, and the family sat down to discuss their next move. Guests, and relatives started to arrive at the house, and several of them went off in groups to scour the neighbourhood. Some dropped by the diner and food store, and discovered that Michael had in fact not visited either.
Later in the day, Frances phoned her brother-in-law Fred, her husband’s only living brother, at his home on 76th Street in Jackson Heights. Towards the end of the afternoon, he came across to the house in Bayside, and with him were his cousins, Victor and Butch Panica. They sat and talked with Frances, the three men speaking softly, with long awkward pauses, like people comforting each other at a wake. One of them suggested that perhaps Frances should notify the police that Michael seemed to have disappeared. After a while, the three men left, and although Frances spoke to Fred on the telephone from time to time, she never saw any of them again.
At 11am on May 14th, Frances went to the 11th Precinct on 215th Street in Bayside, and filed Form 336, the New York Police Department’s missing person report. Any trace of the man she had been married to for seventeen years, effectively vanished, until February 11th, 1992.
Frances Ierfino, who was eleven years younger than Michael, had married Joe Fannelli, a garment cutter, in 1955. They had four children, and divorced in 1969. In 1972, she married Michael who legally adopted the children in 1974. This was his first marriage. The year they married, Michael arranged for an imposing, four bed, four bath brick and stone Colonial to be built in the exclusive Bayside Gables complex in Queens. For some strange reason, with all the wealth in the family, Frances worked part-time as a computer data entry operator at Liz Roberts Apparel in Manhattan, and even stranger, as a part-time counter help at The Bagel Club on 35th Street, in Bayside.
At 5’8” and 200lbs in weight, Michael Pappadio (left) was a plug of a man, physically and mentally strong, and someone who did not openly display fear or physical discomfort. Michael handled all the household finances. When anyone needed money, he gave it to them. He was a domineering personality, whose word was never questioned. When anyone asked about his work, he simply told them he was employed in the garment district. He had four different telephone lines installed in his home, and they seemed to ring non-stop every day.
One of seven brothers, he was born on May 14th, 1922, in New York, and spent a lot of his life working in and around the garment industry, based largely in mid-town Manhattan. He also spent a lot of his life working in and around the Mafia, in particular, the group known on record as the Luchese crime family.
New York’s garment district and related industries were for many years controlled by the New York mob, and the Luchese family, according to some sources, had primary rights to the district, along with the Gambino family. This was exercised by their hold over the trucking industry, a vital lifeline into and out of the area, and the way they manipulated the unions controlling the thousands of people employed in the business.
The Luchese family had their roots in the garment district, going back over 50 years.
Following the death of Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein in 1928, his garment rackets were inherited by Lepke Buchalter and Jacob Shapiro. By the early 1930s, Tommy Luchese, working under Tommaso Gagliano, (who headed up the old 107th Street mob,) as his under boss, was exerting a major stranglehold on the district, through his political manoeuvring with Tammany Hall leader Jimmy Hinds, and indirectly though his contacts in mayor William O’Dyers office. Using men like Jimmy Plumeri, Johnny Dioguardi and Joe Stracci, Luchese filled the vacuum created when Buchalter and Shapiro died.
Tommy Luchese controlled Champion Trucking, one of the biggest hauliers operating in the district and along with Plumeri’s Ell-Gee Carriers Corporation and Barton Trucking, dominated the movement of goods in and out of the area.
The garment industry is divided essentially into two parts: the jobbers who design and sell the garments, and the contractors who assemble and sew the apparel. The bulk of the products were made-up in Chinatown, so there was a constant movement back and forth between the garment district located mainly between 34th and 39th Streets and the makers located south of Canal Street, three miles down the island. The trucking operation was the life-blood of the business, connecting the heart (the district) to the limbs (Chinatown.) Whoever controlled the trucks controlled the garment industry, which by the 1950s was employing more than 300,000 workers.
In 1962, Luchese’s daughter, Frances, married Thomas, the eldest son of Carlo Gambino, the powerful mob boss, and this union cemented close relationships between the two families, including their interests in the garment district. Again, through control of trucking companies, as well as union control, the Gambino family became a major force alongside the Luchese family in this major New York industry.
Fifteen years later on August 22nd, 1977, Women’s Wear Daily, the ‘Bible’ of the rag trade began a series of articles exposing Mafia influence and control among the apparel manufacturers, trucking companies servicing them and unions representing the workers.
It leads off:
‘The Mafia: Seventh Avenue’s Silent Partner called New York’s multibillion dollar industry their thing, because virtually every piece of clothing made here is touched by the hands, or the money, or the influence of organized crime.’
The articles explained how the industry was controlled by the mob through loan sharking, shakedowns for labour peace and professional hijackings.
And this is how things stood in1989.
Cosa Nostra profits from the industry managed by the Luchese family, belonged solely to the official bosses, the permanent administration members as recognized by the Commission or ruling body, of the mob. Acting bosses, captains and soldiers were not allowed to personally earn from these sources without permission from the head of the Luchese crime family, who at this time was Vittorio Amuso.
Michael Pappadio had for many years been an inducted member of Cosa Nostra, getting his stripe, or admission into Cosa Nostra, sometime between 1974 and 1977. He wasn’t the only member of his biological family to have been seduced by the lure of easy money and the power of being a wise guy. His elder brother, by eight years, Andimo, also know by his quant nickname, Pop Wilson,’ had served the Luchese family for many years, until he was blasted to death by a shotgun outside his home in Lido Beach on September 25th 1976. A close friend and confident of Tommy Luchese himself, Andimo had been involved in one of the boss’s many legitimate business ventures, serving as vice-president of Bal-Fran Blouse Company, located at 130 West 46th Street in the garment district, between 1947 and 1950, and Ann-Lynn Sportswear at West 35th Street. Andimo had risen through the ranks to be powerful enough to apparently sit on the board of directors of the mob family, a group referred to as ’the administration.’ He was also very tight with many powerful Cosa Nostra figures, including Vito Genovese, who replaced Frank Costello as the head of their family, in 1957. He was even indicted on the drug rap that snared Genovese
and another group of mobsters in 1958, although he was fortunate to avoid prosecution in this case.
His murder was never solved. Some sources claimed he was killed by Carmine Galante because he had been trying to muscle in on some of the Bonanno crime family mobster’s gambling and loan sharking activities. Other sources believed his killing was ordered by the Luchese family boss of the time, Tony Corallo, who feared Andimo was plotting a coup against him.
Michale Pappadio was charged with the responsibility of managing the Luchese’s family’s interests in the garment district, his elder brother’s main focus prior to his murder. Michael had been ‘in place’ for many years, taking over the position on the death of his brother, and as such, was one of the most powerful crime figures in the area. Not only did he milk huge revenues out of this bustling commercial centre in mid town Manhattan, he also operated a very lucrative loan sharking business among the teeming streets, one that grossed millions of dollars each year.
A classic way in which gangsters like Pappadio sapped money out of the area was a ‘bust out,’ a bankruptcy fraud. In one such example, he along with two associates, and legitimate garment operators, incorporated a firm called Fashion Page. In 1975, when the firm’s business began to decline, the associates made a fictitious loan to the company of $275,000. Shortly afterwards, a fire destroyed the business. Most of the insurance money, over $300,000, went to pay off this loan, rather than the numerous creditors of the business.
Michael Pappadio had a major say in the corruption of all industry operations that would benefit his superiors, including union control, trucking, cutting rooms, suppliers, etc. He had worked hard and successfully, generating massive revenues in his years managing the garment centre business, as well as developing majority or partial interest in at least twelve garment manufacturing companies, but his downfall and ultimate death came about because of his origins in the Luchese crime family.
Vittorio Amuso and his right hand man, a psychotic killer called Anthony Casso, who were running the crime family in 1989, came from the western Brooklyn faction and because of this, were regarded with suspicion and resentment by the Harlem/Bronx cell which had traditionally ruled the family. There is confusion as to what position Michael Pappadio actually had in the Luchese’s at this time. Some sources claim he was a capo or crew boss in his own right, others that he was a soldier or simply an associate in the crew under Alphonse D’Arco.
The origins of the Luchese family, sometime near the beginning of the 20th Century, began in the teeming streets of East Harlem, centred on and around 107th Street. Michael Pappadio was originally from this section of the family, and as a result, became one of the targets earmarked for early retirement by Amuso and Casso as they attempted to solidify their hold over the family, once they had wrested control of it following the imprisonment in 1985 of Anthony Corallo, the family boss since the early 1970s.
In 1986, Corallo knowing he would spend the rest of his life behind bars, made his mind up and decided on a replacement. He chose a senior capo, Anthony ’Buddy’ Luongo to be his successor, and passed the word down to the troops. At least that’s one of the theories that exist. Another is that Corallo sent word out from prison that he was considering this selection. Either way, it was enough. One night in December 1986, Luongo kissed his wife goodbye in their Bronx home, and told her he was off to meet with some friends in Brooklyn. He never returned home. It’s surmised that he was lured into an ambush and killed either by Amuso or some of his aides. The body was disposed of and no trace of him has ever been found.
Heresy information subsequently confirmed that the killing had taken place.
Vincent ‘Fish’ Cafaro, a soldier in the Genovese crime family, gave evidence before a Congressional Committee on Organized Crime in 1988.
This is part of his statement:I also know Vic Amuso who succeeded Buddy Luongo as boss of the Luchese family. I remember discussing Luongo and Amuso with Ralp the General (Ralph Tutino,) a Luchese associate who was recently convicted in New York on federal drug charges. In December, 1986, Ralph told me ‘Buddy’s missing-he had an appointment in Brooklyn with little Vic (meaning Amuso) and he never came back.’ A few days later, Ralph told me that Eddie Coco, ’Mac’ (Mariano Nacaluso) and Vic Amuso were running things for the Luchese family. Luongo was never heard from again. Sammy Santora (at that time the under boss of the Genovese family-not to be confused with Salvatore Santoro, under boss of the Luchese family) later told me that Luongo had been murdered and that he believed that the ‘guy from Brooklyn’ was responsible. I know the ‘guy from Brooklyn’ to be Vic Amuso. The then consigliere of the Luchese family, Eddie Coco is the power behind Amuso. Even though he is the boss, Vic takes counsel from Coco.
A few weeks after Luongo’s disappearance, Tony Corallo was being urged by his family’s administration to sort out the boss replacement situation, with most of the agitation coming from the Brooklyn crew that had been run by ‘Buddy.’ The under boss of the family, Salvatore ‘Tom Mix’ Santora, had grave reservations about Amuso, but was himself in prison, so had little control over the course of events.
A street thug and major heroin trafficker, Vittorio Amuso was a big earner for the family, and this, as much as anything else, finally persuaded Corallo to endorse the promotion. It would be Tony Corallo’s last decision regarding the family he had served for almost fifty years. And the worst he ever made.
In due course, Amuso appointed Anthony Casso as his chief aide. Together, like Bill and Ben the demolition men, or maybe more aptly, ’Dumb and Dumber,’ they would effectively almost destroy one of the tightest, best run and efficient Cosa Nostra families in New York, which at this time had perhaps 120 plus made men, and hundreds of associates.
The power base of the family, long cemented in Harlem and the Bronx, swung over to the Brooklyn faction, by far the most violent and unpredictable bunch of thugs and killers in the clan, with Anthony Casso as perhaps the worst by far. They operated mostly out of Bensonhurst, a small, compact community of mainly blue-collar workers, situated directly north of Coney Island. It’s densely populated three square miles contained thousands of Italian-Americans who considered themselves lucky to live in one of the last New York areas offering wood-burning ovens for pie-making in commercial pizza kitchens.
Vittorio ‘Little Vic’ Amuso, who was also nicknamed ‘Jesse,’ was a short, slim man of unassuming appearance, but like so many of his kind, very dangerous when scratched. In his early days he had acted as bodyguard and chauffeur to Carmine Tramunti, a.k.a. ‘Mr Gribbs’ who took over the family leadership after the death of Tommy Luchese, and prior to Tony Corallo.
Moving rapidly upwards on his career path, by the time he was 33, Amuso was a big time heroin dealer, like so many of his peers in the Luchese family. Parlaying his drug revenues into loan sharking, he was soon developing a reputation as a major earner for the family, possibly the highest accolade a mobster could aim for. His rocketing progress came to a temporary halt when he was arrested in 1977 for importing heroin from Bangkok, Thailand. By 1987 he was solidly entrenched, running the Brooklyn crew under Luongo. He lived with his wife Barbara in Howard Beach in Queens. A close neighbour and friend was John Gotti who lived just three minutes to the south by car.
As he assumed control of the family, Amuso turned more and more to Sidney Lieberman, a personal friend and Luchese associate, concerning matters in the garment industry, and Pappadio and Lieberman began more and more attempting to undermine each other in their dealings with the new administration.
Michael was using his brother Fred to help him run the complex and demanding business of supervising the family’s garment business, following his stroke in 1982, and Lieberman began a campaign to undermine Michael’s standing in the family, claiming he was hiding over 50 businesses away from the family for his own benefit, and had earned $15 million that Amuso was unaware of. Michael responded by denying it all, and pointing out, quite rightly that Lieberman, being Jewish, could never be ‘made’ as he himself had and that the administration should always support a member over an outsider.
A meeting called by Amuso in early 1989, was held in the Cleveland Place, Greenwich Village apartment of a Luchese mobster called Angelo ‘Shorty’ DiPaolo. Michael attended accompanied by Alphonse D’Arco. Also in attendance, were Anthony Casso and Michael’s brother Fred. In a violent and heated confrontation, Amuso demoted Michael from his job in the garment industry, demanding he handed over all record books he was maintaining that involved details on the companies and unions that the family controlled. The meeting ended with Michael storming off, vowing to stay on the job, irrespective of Amuso’s dictates. The boss warned Pappadio that if he persisted, he would issue instructions to have him killed. But like a man with a death wish, Michael Pappadio continued to involve himself in the day-to-day running of the family’s garment district affairs.
His overheads were high-the $2 million Queen’s house; an apartment at 35 Park Avenue, Manhattan; a condo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a house in the Hampton’s; the cars, Haydesa Severo, the housekeeper-the list seemed endless. Although getting on in years and a semi-invalid, Michael like so many of his fellow mobsters, was drive by the need to keep on making money, the Holy Grail of Cosa Nostra everywhere.
Al D’Arco met with him on several occasions during March and April, but was unable to persuade him to accept Amuso’s edict. It seemed the die had been cast. Literally.
In early April, Amuso convened another meeting, this one at the Le Parc Lounge on Rockaway Parkway, in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Present were D’Arco, Casso, Salvatore Avellino a capo in the family, and former chauffer and close confident of now jailed ex-boss Tony Corallo, and his brother Carmine, a soldier in the family. They listened while Vic announced his decision: Michael Pappadio had to go.
Amuso handed over the working details of the hit on Michael Pappadio to Anthony Casso, a serial killer with possibly dozens of victims to his credit. A man who loved his work, he sat down and prepared a killing plan. Weapons were to be procured along with a body bag, and it was decided to lure Pappadio to a meeting at Crown Foods, a bakery manufacturer, on Rockaway Boulevard in Queens where he would be killed. The body would be disposed of, and he would vanish as though he had never existed. A classic mob hit scenario, one that had been repeated over and over again, for generations.
The clip was to be carried out on a Saturday morning. The business would be closed over the week-end, so it would be safe and secure to carry out the killing and then dispose of Pappadio’s corpse.
On that Saturday morning in May, Salvatore Avellino rang Michael and they arranged to meet outside the Great Bay Diner. They were standing talking, shooting the breeze, when Carmine Avellino pulled up in a blue Lincoln Town Car. It is not know what reason was given for Michael to go along to Crown Foods, but he must have felt comfortable with the arrangement to get in the car and travel south across Queens.
At the bakery, a business owned by Carmine Avellino,( now a lube and auto repair shop,) Al D’Arco and one of the soldiers in his crew, Georgie Zappola, waited to carry out the killing. Zappola, a dyed-in-the-wool hoodlum, whose father and uncle had both been murdered by the mob in 1981, still lusted after the honour of being a ‘made man.’ D’Arco was carrying a copper wire cable wrapped in blue insulation tape, and Zappola was holding a .22 revolver. As Carmine Avellino led Michael through the bakery towards the rear office area, D’Arco sprang out from behind a pillar and started bashing Michael around the head with the makeshift sap. To everyone’s surprise, the man remained standing, blood streaming from his face. He screamed out: ‘Why are you hitting me?’
Zappola stepped up, presented the revolver and shot Pappadio. The bullet actually ricocheted off his head, striking a door-frame, and amazingly the man remained standing, holding his face between his hands. Zappola then pulled out a snub-nose .38 calibre revolver and shot Michael again in the head. Unbelievably, he still remained on his feet, his legs, now spread wide, to support his dying body, while his three killers stood around him like wild dogs baiting a wounded bear. And then slowly, he sank to his knees, and toppled over, collapsing onto the floor.
The three men stood there, in that empty warehouse, adrenaline pumping, bathed in sweat, the blue haze of gunshots hanging in the air, dust motes dancing through the beams of spring sunshine that shafted through the overhead windows, the smell of cordite mixing with the smell of yeast and flour, the broken body sprawled at their feet, pumping blood across the concrete floor.
It could have been a scene from a Tarantino movie.
Later giving evidence as a federal witness, D’Arco said:
‘There was a big mess, and lots of blood on the floor and walls. Everywhere.’
They checked to make sure he was really dead, and Carmine Avellino searched his clothing, removing a thick wad of money and an old wallet. Amuso had convinced himself that Michael had turned and become an informant for the FBI, and wanted evidence of this, although there in fact was none because he hadn’t. Suspecting a victim of becoming a ‘rat’ was a classic Mob subterfuge to justify the execution of an irritant within a crime family. The body was rolled into the body bag, and carried through the bakery and then loaded into the trunk of the Lincoln, which had been lined with a plastic sheet.
With D’Arco driving, he and Zapola went to a secluded intersection at Alderton Street and Trotting Course Lane, close to Woodhaven Boulevard. Here, D’Arco left the car and made his way back to the bakery, (flagging a taxi on Woodhaven Boulevard,) to supervise the cleaning of the crime scene. Zappola waited with the car for the arrival from Long Island of the man who would arrange the disposal of Michael Pappadio’s body. It was subsequently cremated, and the ashes scattered somewhere in the greater New York area.
Alphonse D’Arco eventually made his way home, to his apartment at 21 Spring Street in Little Italy, Manhattan, where he removed all his clothes, cutting them into strips, including his shoes. He bundled the pieces into plastic bags, and dumped them into the apartment building’s incinerator shoot.
Later in the day, he telephoned Amuso from a public telephone at the intersection of Kenmare and Mulberry Street. They talked, discreetly about the killing, and Amuso finished the conversation by saying:
‘Grazie, ai fatto bene’ which translated into English meant, ‘Thanks, you did well.’
Three years later, on a cold, miserable spring day in 1992, Frances Pappadio learned some of the details of her husband’s brutal killing.
Sitting in her comfortable and luxurious home in Bayside, surrounded by her four children-son Michael, and daughters Patricia, Michelle and Jose- with her sister Dolores Saco busy organizing coffee and tea for everyone, she listened as FBI Special Agent Lucian J. Gandolfo told her what the agency had learned about her husband’s death from Al D’Arco. The day before, she had been visited by Agent Gandolfo and Agent Sharon L. Bonville and told that the FBI had information confirming that her husband was in fact dead, and not simply a missing person. She had asked them to return the following day when she would call her children around her and confront the awful news as a family.
Frances Pappadio claimed she was never aware of her husband’s mob connection. Michael kept his biological family and business family life completely separate. Her thoughts and feelings as the background and fate of her husband were revealed, can only be imagined. After seventeen years of marriage to a man she thought was a successful businessman, she discovered her husband had been prosperous all right, but in a profession she could never have dreamt of.
On the same day, February 12th, six miles across town in Jackson Heights, Michael’s brother Fred, was also being interviewed by an agent of the FBI, in his modest row house on a tree-lined street.
He refused to answer questions without his attorney present, but admitted that unlike his brother, he was not involved in ‘that life.’ Special Agent John Flanagan knew of course that Fred had been present at the meeting on Cleveland Place, when Vittorio Amuso ‘chased’ his brother from the garment industry, and that Fred must have known the inevitability of the events that would eventually unfold, almost certainly resulting in his brother’s death. When he had called with his cousins that day in 1989 to the house in Bayside, to sit and talk with his sister-in-law, he surely knew it was all over, and that Michael had gone for good.
In the twisted and devious philosophy of Cosa Nostra, family members are dispensable as long as The Family carries on maintaining its momentum.
Although the ultimate fate of Michael Pappadio was resolved, his family will forever be tortured by the knowledge of his final moments and unresolved resting place.
Like so many mob murders, the mysterious disappearance of Michael Pappadio would have remained just that, except for information revealed by the man from the Luchese family who knew the answers to many of their secrets-Alphonse D’Arco. He had helped to set it up and carry it out. Michael was just one of many victims who were sacrificed to the ambition of this man over the years, as he schemed and manoeuvred up the corporation ladder of the Mafia underworld.
D’Arco was one of the highest ranking Cosa Nostra defectors when he rolled and came in from the cold in September 1991. Born in Brooklyn in 1932, near the Naval Yards, he had been involved with the Luchese crime family from his teenage years.
His childhood, D'Arco once recalled, was ‘like being in the forest and all the trees were the dons and the organized crime guys.’ A small, balding, bespectacled inconspicuous man, he looked more like a bank clerk than a mobster. He started hanging around Amuso and the Carnarsie crew of the Luchese family, and at 29 went to prison for five years for fencing stolen stock certificates
He was made relatively late in life in 1982, by the boss himself, Anthony Corallo, in a kitchen in a house in the Bronx, when he was just turned fifty, and had taken over as capo or crew chief from Paul Vario when he died in 1988. Shortly after he was given his button, he was arrested, and pled out on a drug trafficking charge, going back into prison for two years. He was earning $10,000 a week on his loan sharking book, which he had inherited from Vario, and his tributes from his crew of eleven men and dozens of associates was thousands of dollars every week.
Amuso had transferred Michael Pappadio into this crew from his Harlem based one, in order to keep a close eye on him.
The reason for D’Arco’s defection speaks volumes about how much the once powerful Luchese crime family had deteriorated in the few years that its control had passed out of the hands of Tony Corallo. In a murderous campaign generated by Amuso and Casso to eliminate anyone they suspected of disloyalty they arranged the murders of nine men, tried, unsuccessfully to wipe out the head of their New Jersey crew along with his son and another aide, and organized the killing, again unsuccessfully, of capo Pete Chiodo,( a man Amuso had himself sponsored into the family,) although he was shot twelve times in the attempt, tried to kill his sister, and finally were setting up a hit on D’Arco himself, when he became aware of the danger he was in and turned himself into the FBI. At one time, Casso showed D’Arco a list of 49 names he wanted eliminated, and almost half of them were members of the Luchese family! In his de-briefing by the FBI when Casso offered to become an informant, he actually admitted his role in 36 killings.
A classic hit was the one on Anthony DiLapi. An old school Bronx based soldier, he had been a force in the garment district under Tony Corallo as a Teamster’s local union leader. On his release from prison in 1986, he was summonsed to a meet with Amuso. Afraid that as a Bronx based member of the family, he would be facing problems with Amuso, he fled New York and finished up in Los Angeles, where he worked as a second-hand car salesman. In February 1990 he was shot dead in the car park of his apartment building by Joe D’Arco, the 19 year old son of Al, who crossed America in order to get his button in the mob by earning his ‘bones’ in a hit for the family boss.
Casso a man so twisted and warped, he must have walked outside his own shadow, brought Al D’Arco to the edge, and in doing so, set in motion the events that helped
law enforcement agencies bring down Amuso and Casso himself. D’Arco’s testimony at numerous trials was the final nail in many mob coffins. It was at D’Arco’s de-briefing by his FBI handlers that the details of Michael Pappadio’s murder came to light.
"Al gave them great value for the money," said his defence lawyer Edward Hayes. "D'Arco is a lunatic, but he has a story."
And what a story. For ten years, starting in the court action against Vittorio Amuso, he testified at numerous trials against the mob, including the 1997 one against Vincent Gigante, head of the Genovese crime family.
In 2002, he took down his shingle as mob informant extraordinaire and retired into the obscurity of the Witness Protection Program.
Salvatore and Carmine Avellino were both indicted on various racketeering charges in the early 1990s and served significant prison time. They were both charged in the murders of the Long Island garbage haulers Robert Kubecka and Donald Barstow which occurred later in the same year that Michael Pappadio was murdered.
Georgie Zapolla is currently incarcerated at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in Pennsylvania. His projected release date is March 3, 2014.
Vittoria Amuso and Antony Casso are both in federal prisons and will never be released.
For some reason, the name of the man who disposed of Michael’s body was never disclosed.
In the end, Michael Pappadio died not so much because he underestimated the evil of Amuso and Casso, rather he overestimated his ability to swim with the fish, even though they were piranhas. His belief in the sanctity of the rules of Cosa Nostra seduced him into assuming his crime family position was inviolable. An old school Mafioso he was simply a babe in the woods when he was faced with the terrible twins, whose lust for money and mob power, was greater by far than their observance of the rules they were supposed to live by.
The tenet that absolute power corrupts absolutely could have been written as a job description for Amuso and Casso, two men who somehow could never understand that fear and loathing are really no substitute for grace underfire, but who most certainly would have understood the saying of Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin:
‘A lie told often enough becomes the truth.’
© Thom L. Jones 2010