The life ain’t what it used to. Just ask Lucchese crime family mobster Carmine Avellino. The aging capo will go to prison because a mob associate refused to pay back the $100,000 he had loaned from Avellino. What the hell has happened to La Cosa Nostra?!
Avellino doesn’t know. When he started out as a gangster, times were very different. The Mafia was firmly entrenched in everyday life, it controlled entire industries, not a brick was moved and no garbage was collected without the say so of a mob boss.
A boss like Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo, who led the Lucchese crime family, one of five mob families operating in New York. Corallo was deadly, tough, and smart, running his family like any of the various businesses the Mafia controlled or manipulated. He often shared his knowledge and insights with his chauffeur, Salvatore Avellino, Carmine’s older brother.
Besides being Corallo’s driver and an alleged mob captain, Salvatore was also the president of Private Sanitation and ran a multi-million-dollar garbage business called Salem Sanitary Carting Company – He sold his companies in the 1990s for $22 million dollars. In general, you could say, he was responsible for the Lucchese family’s interests in the waste removal industry.
While taking care of mob business, Salvatore took his younger brother Carmine under his wings and schooled him in the ways of the underworld, one in which his brother and the Mafia were prominent players in. With various industries under their firm control they were able to reap huge profits.
But they didn’t do so without breaking some eggs. The Mafia didn’t come to power bearing gifts and flowers, they became top dog by biting to death all the other dogs they deemed a threat, until they were regarded as the true power.
Carmine Avellino was well aware of the violent reputation of the Mafia. He knew he too could be called upon to “go to work” and “make his bones,” or in plain English: Participate in a contract murder.
When Robert Kubecka and Donald Barstow, two men who ran a private carting firm, refused to bow down to the mob and its garbage hauling cartel, the family sent out a hit team to take care of things.
The Lucchese family was worried about heat from law enforcement interfering with its lucrative garbage business, though, since it was obvious to everyone that the Avellinos had serious problems with Kubecka and Barstow. Because of that it was decided to hand the contract to the crew headed by Anthony Baratta.
Salvatore and Carmine shared all their intelligence on Kubecka and Barstow with Baratta, even driving him around Long Island, showing him where the targets lived and worked. The two honest, hardworking men didn’t stand a chance. On August 10, 1989, both were killed two mob hitmen. The assassins were picked up by Carmine Avellino who was waiting in a getaway car to take them to a safe house.
The murder was eventually solved by law enforcement, though, and all those involved were sent to prison for various crimes. Among them Carmine Avellino, who was locked up until 2004.
When he got out, the underworld was a different place. Where mobsters used to compare themselves to characters from The Godfather movies, now they were yapping about - and actually trying to get bit parts in - HBO’s The Sopranos. But more important than the changes in popular culture were the changes on the streets.
Gone were the days when the mob controlled entire industries. They were lucky if they were able to simply exert some influence within the unions and get a no show job somewhere. And with all the rats informing the FBI of every crime ever committed by any of their former partners-in-crime mobsters were lucky if they were able to stay out on the streets ten years’ tops.
No, the good years were gone.
Carmine Avellino found this out when he loaned a Lucchese family associate $100,000. In the old days, Avellino could expect his money back and then some. A steady income generated from one big loan is how many mobsters made a killer profit.
But that was back in the day. Nowadays guys will pay late or not at all. When Avellino found this out he sent three underlings to threaten the deadbeat associate. Instead of getting his money back, Avellino and his three cronies ended up in handcuffs, charged with extortion.
Many people found the charge a bit weird. If you ask for your own money back, how is that extortion? Avellino probably thought the same thing. What kind of world was he living in? He hadn’t loaned this huge sum to a citizen but to someone involved in the life, someone who knew about the rules they lived by.
Perhaps that is why it took him so long to plead guilty. He did not feel guilty of anything so why plead out? Even after two of the mobsters he ordered to threaten the debtor pleaded guilty, Avellino remained steadfast in his decision to take his case to trial. Until a couple of weeks before it was all scheduled to start.
Sensing the tide had changed and that in this day and age you had to be one very lucky gangster to get a not guilty verdict, the 72-year-old capo pleaded guilty on August 12. He admitted conspiring with his fellow Lucchese mobsters to use “an implied threat of violence based on reputation” to scare the victim into paying.
Avellino faces up to 33 months in prison.
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