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How a rat brought down the Colombo Mafia family crew of “Fat Jerry,” “The Mask,” and “Mumbles”

By David Amoruso

It’s hard to run an honest loansharking business these days. Just ask Colombo Mafia family soldier Jerry Ciauri. Together with several other mobsters he ran gambling and loansharking operations in Brooklyn and Staten Island. He was doing okay until a rat in his crew began nibbling on money and then ran off to the FBI.

Nicknamed “Fat Jerry,” 59-year-old Ciauri has been around the block when it comes to “the life”. He knows the pitfalls. He also knows new ones are created daily. Gambling and loansharking used to be activities that drew little to no heat from law enforcement. Nowadays, it’s usually what gets them in trouble.  

Mafia cash cow

Putting out money on the streets was always seen as a safe investment for mobsters. You loaned someone money and the debtor would pay you interest until he could pay back the full amount. Under the rules of the mob this interest would pile up and would make it almost impossible for a debtor to ever make good on his initial loan. It was a cash cow for the Mafia.

Loansharks bite

If a debtor didn’t make good on his payments, the loanshark would do what a shark does best: bite. In Ciauri’s case that meant threatening to bite first. He even threatened to shoot a loansharking partner who had fallen behind making payments to him. Another time, he enlisted an associate to slash a victim’s tires in the middle of the night. Ciauri was assisted in this business by 48-year-old Colombo family associate Salvatore Disano, who worked as a debt collector.

Making threats comes naturally to many a mobster. Another Colombo family soldier by the name of Vito Difalco also ran a loansharking business. Going by the nickname “The Mask,” 63-year-old Difalco once threatened a debtor by telling him that he had a past history of setting fire to the cars of those who failed to make timely payments.

Difalco told the victim: “Good things happen to me when I stay calm, see like I was by your house the other day. Four years ago, I would have put the Benz on fire.” 

Now that’s personal growth!

42-year-old Colombo family associate Joseph Maratea assisted Difalco when he needed someone to pick up loansharking payments.

Brotherhood of thievin’ bastards

Despite the harsh words, business was booming. But in the criminal underworld you always have to watch your back. You may be part of the “honored society” filled with a “brotherhood” but each one of them got there by committing a crime. So Ciauri couldn’t have been too surprised when an associate of his was skimming money off the top.

This man also collected debt payments and gave part of the cash to Ciauri. But in the summer of 2017, he himself claimed he didn’t have the money he owed Ciauri. The debt collector was refusing to bring in the debt owed to the loanshark.

Ciauri was having none of it and began threatening him. Not by sending him a fish wrapped in newspapers, but over the phone, like he hadn’t gotten the memo that the FBI tends to tap phone lines. Ciauri then upped the ante by sending three text messages to the man’s wife on December 6, 2017. One text contained a photo of the man’s car parked near his home.

Mumbles on the prowl

51-year-old Joseph “Mumbles” Rizzo had allegedly taken the photograph for Ciauri after he had been ordered to keep an eye on the deadbeat debt collector for the Colombo family mobster. As both men were texting back and forth during the following months, the feds were monitoring every conversation.

On the morning of January 1, 2018, Rizzo texted Ciauri: “Everyone In The House.” Ciauri responded, “Nice[.]”. Later that month, Ciauri told Rizzo over the telephone to “pass around later, take a picture for me.” Rizzo sent Ciauri a photo of the man’s car the next day.

The out-of-favor mob associate began noticing he was being stalked by Rizzo by the summer of 2018. On June 3, he saw Rizzo driving by slowly in a white SUV. He began fearing for his life and was worried the Mafia had put a murder contract out on him.

To the can

By now, the former debt collector had already shared many details of his criminal business dealings with Ciauri and other Colombo mobsters with authorities. He was now known as a rat on the streets of New York.

The feds pounced on his former partners in crime in July of 2018. Ciauri, Difalco, Disano, Maratea, and Rizzo were all arrested. In recent weeks, all men have pleaded guilty to various racketeering and extortion charges. Rizzo pleaded guilty to stalking conspiracy.

Ciauri, Difalco, Disano, and Maratea face the most serious punishment: up to 20 years in prison. Colombo family associate Rizzo faces a maximum of five years.

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