By Thom L. Jones
Salvatore Avellino recorded by electronic surveillance:
'Do you understand me, now when you got a guy that steps out of line and this and that, now you got the whip. You got the fuckin' whip. This is what he, Tony Corallo, tells me all the time, a strong union makes money for everybody, including the wise guys. The wise guys even make more money with a strong union.'
Tommy Brown and Ducks were talking business over a cup of Joe. Whose heads are going to get cracked; whose legs broken and what trunk music they need to orchestrate to keep the wheels flowing smoothly. Once this was sorted, little Tommy, born in Palermo, capitol of the Mafia, who wasn’t much taller than a dwarf, pointed past Tony Corallo’s shoulder.
Corallo, who had started out his business life as a tile setter, and knew a thing or two about angles, getting his nickname by always ducking legal indictments, leaned back in the booth, in the Azores bar and restaurant, next to the Lido Hotel, squinting, into the street, expecting to see something hoovering down on him from Suffolk County. Maybe Concetto, Tommy Luchese’s highly-strung wife. They lived just down the road on Royale Street after all.
‘Over there, what?’
‘Long Fuckin’ Island, over there’ Tommy grunted. ‘I want it. I want it all. Get the nut on everything-trucking, construction, the street stuff and above all the garbage handling. Lot of new houses going up; lot of new factories being built. Lotta rubbish to shift. Go fuckin’ get it champ.’
Tony ‘Ducks’ Corallo who had a cranium like an 8 ball and eyes that were dead from coping with too much trouble, grinned, exposing a mouth with choppers so big and white his head looked like some kind of manic trick n’ treat pumpkin.
‘Way to go Tommy. Way to go.’
And he did.
In 1989 the Luchese crime family, one of the five Mafia clans operating in New York, killed one of their own, and against all the tenants that these groups are supposed to live by, brutally murdered two innocent civilians. Although widely disparate in their circumstances, both acts illustrates the lengths to which the heads of the Mafia families will go in order to achieve control over their fiefdoms. In May, they killed Michael Pappadio, a man long part of the Luchese family's tradition and corporate structure who stood in their way, and just three months later, arranged the murder of two other men who stood in their way. They all died in order to satisfy and protect the perverted ambitions of men obsessed by hubris and the believe that greed is good.
The murder of these men by Cosa Nostra killers, is a classic example of the way that the mob resolves some of their trickier problems. Violent death has always been the ultimate arbitrator in the criminal underworld, the execrable and ultimate act that separates mob management from traditional man management in the conventional business world. It is rare however, to find examples of ruthless assassination taking place outside the tightly drawn boundaries of the Mafia's uniquely dark landscape. Mob bosses as a rule, are more than circumspect when having to deal with outsiders; they know only too well the kind of furore they can generate from the public and the media, by killing someone who is not recognized as one of their own kind.
Albert Anastasia found that out to his cost when he allegedly ordered the murder of a Brooklyn clothing salesman, a young man called Arnold Schuster. Johnny Dioguardi brought down all kinds of heat and unwelcome attention, when he ordered the acid blinding of Victor Riesel, a crusading anti-mob reporter, as did the murder of another reporter, Jake Lingle in Chicago in 1930 by a killer supposedly hired by the Capone mob. When it came to exercising their ultimate deterrent, Mafia bosses would think long and carefully about who would get their final benediction. Murder could only be authorized by the head of a crime family; protocol had to be observed, no loose ends left dangling, everything ship shape and Bristol fashion.
So it is interesting to speculate on the mind set of the men who made the fateful decision on that cold, December day in 1988, which set in motion a chain of events that would not only leave men dead and families destroyed, but opened a hornet's nest of deceit, treachery and mind-numbing bureaucratic musical chairs, as county, state and federal law enforcement officials, scrambled to absolve themselves of responsibility for their part in an act of evil that was unique even by the morality starved underworld of America's biggest city.
The three men who came together at The Surfside Three Motel in Howard Beach, Queens, on that gray, overcast December morning, were surely under more than just the normal, every day, stress that their chosen work generated. They lived under different pressure than most people as they operated their daily schedules, controlling and managing their unique business empire, marshalling their resources to maximize their returns. Captains and kings in their own right, they had a unique way to sort out and settle disputes and problems, and as they sat, drinking coffee, looking out over the drab, saltwater harbourage called Shellbank Basin, they had come to their conclusions and made a decision. Although as always, it was about money, on this occasion there was also something more at stake: the security of their business sovereignty and their own personal safety. They decided to kill these two men who were causing them so much heartburn, and resolve their problems once and for all.
Jerry Kubecka came to Long Island in the early 1950s, and started to work for his brother-in-law, who ran a dairy at Northport, a little, one horse town on State Highway 10, a few miles north-east of Huntingdon. Part of his job was to deliver milk to the dairy's four hundred or so customers. Many rural communities scattered across Long Island had not yet organized trash collection services, and people often asked Jerry to take away their garbage. He did this initially as a favour to keep in their good books, until the local health authorities discovered a milk truck was doubling as a rubbish truck as well.
So to avoid problems, Jerry forked out 25 bucks and bought himself an old fertilizer wagon, left his in-laws, and started a rubbish removal round. For a dollar a week he would visit and collect the household rubbish of people who lived and operated businesses in the area. He branched out and started trucking in hay from upstate New York to supplement his income and the business grew. As he got bigger, Jerry found out that even in these early days there was an industry group in place, trying to control prices and negotiate territories. It was called the Suffolk Carter's Association, led by a man called Salvatore Spatarella, who was known for his connections to the New York Mafia. Spatarella ran his own carting business called All American Refuse Removal Corporation.
Jerry was also soon in conflict with Local 813, the union that represented garbage truck workers which was headed up by a notorious mob connected figure called Bernard Adelstein, the secretary-treasurer of the union, who became one of the New York crime figures identified by the McClellan Senate sub committee investigating organized crime across America between 1957 and 1959. The committee referred to him as 'an abject tool of organized crime.' As a result of the hearings, Adelstein was indicted and tried and found guilty on three counts of extortion. His verdict was however overruled, following an appeal. He had a side racket through another union he controlled-the Teamsters Local 1034-in which he sold ‘sweetheart’ union contracts to funeral homes and companies that manufactured oil barrels.
Edelstein, a short, fat, balding one-legged rabble-rouser, deaf in his right ear, who once tried to strangle Robert F. Kennedy, had joined Local 813 as secretary-treasurer in 1951 on its formation, and was for the next forty years its main negotiator. He was linked in his early days to Vincent James 'Jimmy Jerome' Squillante, who worked under his god-father Albert Anastasia when he bossed the crime group now known as the Gambino family. When Squillante was murdered in 1960, his place was taken by James Failla, who operated under the new head of the family, Carlo Gambino.
Bernie Adelstein was known by law enforcement to be an associate of the Gambino Family, and a man who assisted them and other organized crime groups, including the Genovese Family and the Luchese Family, in controlling and manipulating the private sanitation industry in the New York City metropolitan area. Bernie Adelstein worked closely with Failla, who was also known as 'Jimmy Brown,' to maintain organized crime domination of the private sanitation industry.
By the early 1980s Local 813 was known as 'Jimmy Brown's Union.'
The McClellan Committee's 1958 Interim Report found that:
“Bernard Adelstein, secretary-treasurer of teamsters local 813, the dominant union in New York carting, betrayed every principle of trade unionism by serving as an abject tool in all of [the] empire-building activities [of Vincent Squillante, a narcotics trafficker and mob figure]. With his own authority over Local 813 as absolute as Squillante's over the management side, Adelstein was able to put his union at Squillante's complete disposal in enforcing monopolies, punishing trade association critics of Squillante, and blinking at Squillante-favored nonunion firms.”
Adelstein's rule at 813 ended on September 7th 1992 when he was banned for life from the IBT.
In 1967, pressure was building on Jerry Kubecka to fall in line with the demands of Suffolk Carters. He spoke to a reporter called Tom Renner, bitterly complaining that rival firms were threatening his customers, and that pickets had broken his customers store windows; his drivers were being accosted and threatened, one left after a bunch of goons threatened to break his legs, and that his vehicles were being sabotaged by having their windows smashed and sugar or metal shavings dumped into their gas tanks. The Association employed many methods of intimidation.
One of the most effective was 'haunting.' If an operator like Jerry refused to sign on, they were followed day and night by tight-lipped hoodlums, to their homes, to their offices and yards, every day and every night, week-ends and holidays. Gradually under the pressure, they broke down, and signed up with the union. Jerry, however didn't. He would lay formal complaints with the local police, but he would never press charges or agree to testify.
In 1974 Spaterella went to prison on a three year sentence for extortion. The vacuum he left was filled by a man called Salvatore Avellino.
Late in 1977, his health failing, Jerry approached his son, and asked him if he would come in and run the business. A graduate of Huntington High School, Robert Kubecka had a degree in management from the Babson College in Massachusetts and a masters in environmental engineering from SUNY, Stony Brook. He married his childhood sweetheart, Nina, and took a job as an environmentalist for Huntington Town. He loved working for the town, organizing the laying out and planting of gardens, planning new parks and helping generally to make Huntington a better place to live. But he was a loyal son, according to his mother, and did not run from what he saw as a responsibility to his father. He inherited the business and all of its headaches. He was lucky, however, to have someone to share it with.
His sister, Cathy, had married Donald Barstow (right), who was five years younger than Robert, and in 1980, he agreed to come alongside and help run the firm. It wasn't his first choice either, he had plans to work as a marine surveyor with his father in a family business.
When these two men inherited the firm, they also picked up Jerry Kubecka’s war on the Mafia.
According to friends, they were more like brothers than brothers-in-law. They would meet every morning about 6am for breakfast at the Gaslight, an old fashioned ice cream parlour near their office and yard, at 41 Brightside Avenue, East Northport, backing onto the MTA Long island rail line, and plan the day over breakfast. By the early 1980s, they had plenty to talk about.
At this time, the private carting industry which picked up 75% of Long Island's garbage, was formed into a trade group which called itself Private Sanitation Industry, Inc., and was based in Melville, about four miles south of Huntington, just over the Suffolk County border. It seemed to be a legitimate organization contributing to campaign funds, representing its members before boards and commissions, but in fact what it really existed for was to suppress competition, punish operators who stepped out of line, rig bids and fatten the pockets of the men who ran it. The Kubecka business was a thorn in their side, a genuine rarity, an honest company trying to operate in the cesspool that was the Long Island garbage industry. And so the men behind the scenes tried to intimidate the son out of the business, having failed abysmally with the father. Some of the Kubecka trucks were damaged, fires were started in the company's garbage skips, and customers were warned that they themselves would become victims if they continued to use Kubecka's services.
Robert (left) complained to his family that he was being followed, that his men were being accosted and threatened, their parked cars vandalized when left outside the yard as they worked their routes. He began to sleep over in the office to keep watch over the yard at nights. His father had been dealing with this problem for years, but Robert was prepared to do more than complain about the problem. He was willing to work with the authorities to try to destroy the system that was trying to destroy him and the business.
As the winter of 1980 began, Robert and Donald had set their course. At a meeting held in Jerry Kubecka's house in Stony Brook, Cathy and her in-laws, Jerry and his wife Joy, and Robert's wife, Nina, sat down for coffee and home baked cookies with Dick Tennien. In his 50s, he had spent most of his life fighting the mob as a cop in the Suffolk County Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Bureau. He was now a special investigator for the Organized Crime Task Force of the state attorney general’s office. He had come visiting, to reassure the family that Robert and Donald would be looked after. They would be protected if they agreed to help the state of New York bring charges against the people who were harassing them and trying to get them to quit their operation on Long Island.
The OCTF wanted the two men to carry on, and in fact to expand their business with the encouragement and help of the task force. It was an opportunity for the law to see how the mob if provoked, would react.
'Don't worry,' Tennien assured the family, 'They'll be safe. I'm a professional. No harm will come their way. We'll keep your boys in the background, there names will never be mentioned.' It was the first of many promises that would come to sound like the echo of a tin drum, beaten in despair, by a lonely drummer.
Robert and Donald went out and aggressively bid for contracts with private and public utilities. Over the course of two years, Robert recorded dozens of meetings and conversations with other carters and helped produce evidence that allowed the task force to get court permission for wiretaps and electronic bugs. All the time, Tennien kept reassuring them that he had informants operating around the clock, and that Robert and Donald's names would never be disclosed.
The state investigators heard among the threats and the harassing, the name of one man, cropping up, over and over again-Salvatore Avellino Jnr. He was president of Private Sanitation, ran a multi-million dollar garbage business called Salem Sanitary Carting Company and was also allegedly a capo, or crew boss in the Luchese Mafia crime family, responsible for their interests in the waste removal industry. Among his many business investments, he was a major investor in the company that contracted to operate the infamous Islip garbage barge, whose futile 1987 search up and down the Atlantic seaboard for a place to dump its cargo, made headlines across America and the world.
Early in the summer of 1983, having tried numerous times to frighten Robert and Donald out of the industry, the mob tried a different tactic. A man called Fred Lomangino approached them with an offer to buy them out, provided they paid a 3% commission to Avellino (right). He inferred if they didn't sell, they would eventually meet with an accident.
In the fall of 1983, the state prosecutors prepared their case for a grand jury hearing, and Robert realized that although his testimony would be secret, if it went to a trial he would have to appear as witness. He also discovered that the network of informants Dick Tennien had in place, was himself and Donald, and that was all he had.
In September 1984, the grand jury indicted 21 people and 16 carting companies on Long Island, alleging that the Gambino and Luchese crime families were divvying up over $400,000 each year from the industry through force, extortion, restraint of trade and brute force. According to federal sources, cash skimmed from the waste haulers was divided between the Luchese family because they oversaw the division of collection routes, and the Gambino family who prevented labour problems through their alleged control over unionized garbage workers.
Among the defendants indicted were Avellino and the boss of the Luchese crime family, another Long Island resident, Anthony 'Tony Ducks' Corallo along with his underboss, Salvatore Santoro.
In an organization that produced more frightening men than Hitler’s Third Reich, Cosa Nostra’s Anthony Corallo was singularly unique.
Born on February 12th 1913, in the teeming slums of East 100th Street, Harlem, Corallo also known as ‘The Doctor’ was a short, squat man with piercing blue eyes. He first came to prominence when he became a protégé of Johnny Dioguardi, who recruited him into the 107th Street Gang in the late 1920s. He soon worked his way up in the rackets and was involved in gambling, bookmaking, narcotics, loan-sharking and extortion. A well-rounded portfolio for any budding gangster. His money lending skills were legendary and at one time he was known as a ‘loan shark’s loan shark.’ His manipulative and corrupting skills were also without reproach as were witnessed in 1941, when although convicted on drug charges over a consignment of heroin worth $150,000, a massive amount at this time, he only served a six-month sentence on Riker’s Island, the prison on Manhattan’s East River.
His primary criminal talent in influencing enterprises were linked into the trucking industry, but he was also closely locked into the Painters and Decorators Union, the Conduit Workers Union and the United Textile Workers Union. He held executive positions in all of these and through them, amassed a fortune. He was close to Jimmy Hoffa, probably as a result of ties with Johnny Dioguardi and eventually gained control of several unions, including the crucial Local 239 of the Teamsters. He was a zealous instigator in the creation of ‘no show’ employer positions within the locals he controlled, generating revenue by collecting the salaries of workers who did not exist. At one time this was reaching $70,000 per week, some of which he shared with the management of the companies that participated in the scam.
A foul-mouthed and terrifying man, he was often used by Tommy Luchese to enforce recalcitrant debtors into meeting payments, and to resolve labour disputes. A really bad glare from, ‘Tony Ducks’ was often all that was necessary. Luchese had such a high regard for Coralloo that he promoted him to capo, or crew chief when he was only in his early thirties. This was a rare achievement in an organization that paid great store in creating experienced managers over a long period of time, before promoting them. One of Corallo’s legitimate fronts was the ownership of an automobile agency in Queens.
In 1958, U.S. Senator John McClellan leading a Senate Committee investigating crime in the labour movement, stated:
‘Our study into the New York situation reveals an alarming picture of the extent to which gangsters like Anthony Corallo have infiltrated the labour movement, using their union positions for the purposes of extortion, bribery and shakedowns. Tony Corallo is one of the scariest and worst gangsters we have ever dealt with.’
Tony Ducks had a favourite saying: ‘I like to be by myself. Misery loves company.’
This was the man who led the men who faced off against the two carters on Long island.
It came as a shock to Robert and Donald to find out how much money organized crime was making off the garbage industry, and just how high up the totem pole the chain of extortion and graft extended. The state attorney general's office followed up the criminal charges with a civil anti-trust case and by this time, the new year had dawned.
In April 1985, Ronald Goldstock, director of the states Organized Crime Task Force announced to the media one of their biggest coups in the fight against the mob. They had placed a bug in the black Jaguar saloon that Avellino used to chauffeur around his boss, Anthony Corallo, and over months, had recorded many hours of conversation, implicating the men in numerous criminal activities and establishing once and for all, the existence of the mob's board of directors, always referred to as 'The Commission,' since it was first established in 1931. Among the hundreds of hours of recorded conversations, the Kubecka family featured among the foul mouth rhetoric that spewed in a never ending stream from the mouth of 'Tony Ducks.' But no one at the task force thought to warn Robert and Donald about the potential dangers these conversations must have indicated. Another example of promises given, but never fulfilled by the law.
In the spring of 1985, Robert was getting so concerned for his and his family's safety that he wrote into the task force, demanding some assurances. A lawyer, George Bradleau, who replied on their behalf, stated, '....I can assure you that this office is most sensitive to such considerations and will continue, as it has in the past, to provide Mr. Kubecka with any appropriate protection, when and if the need arises.'
On October 6th., Robert called in the office, speaking to Tennien's partner, Alvin Jones, reporting that someone had rung him at the depot and said, 'watch out for your family and friends this weekend.'
Over the next two years, the state's case wandered through the legal system, and Robert and Donald carried on with their lives, trying to run the business, watching their backs all the time. In January 1987, Corallo was sent to prison for 100 years, and in the same month, nine of the people under indictment by the state for coercion against the Kubeka business pleaded guilty. But the sentences were a farce, Avellino getting off with a slap on the wrist, having to do 840 hours of community service, picking up garbage from the poor for free, but being able to nominate someone to perform the actual work itself!
Towards the end of 1988, Robert Kubecka had been approached by the FBI who wanted his assistance in their investigation on carting and organized crime on Long Island. The mob were still smashing his containers, damaging his vehicles, trying to get him either out of the industry or agreeing to join their union. But they were not getting anywhere, and so the meeting was called in December by the three men most involved, Avellino, and the two who were now running the Luchese family, Vittorio Amuso who had taken over as the boss from Tony Corallo and Anthony 'Gaspipe' Casso his underboss.
They gathered at the motel in Howard Beach to try to determine what their next move was going to be in their continuing war with the Kubecka family. It seems that not only did Avellino have access to two NYPD detectives on the Luchese family payroll who had kept him updated on the moves the OCTF was planning, but Casso had access to an FBI agent who was able to confirm that Robert and Donald were now going to work for the federal government in their fight to bring the mob to its knees. The two ‘dirty’ cops turned out to be Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa , who have since been convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The identity of FBI agent has never surfaced.
The three men decided to get approval from the Gambino family, their partners in the garbage industry, to have Robert and his father killed.
As Casso said later in his debriefing with law enforcement when he had decided to offer his services, '....but he was helping the FBI. So you know in the life we were in, there was no other way, but to kill the guy.'
Early in 1989, Anthony Casso called a further meeting attended by Amuso and Avellino, this time at a mob social club in Canarsie, Brooklyn, on Flatlands Avenue. He also called in another capo in the family, a man called Anthony 'Bowat' Baratta, who lived in Manhattan. He ran a crew for the family in the Bronx, and by using him, it was felt it would shield Avellino from any direct link to the killings.
(1) Amuso & (2) Casso
The family boss and his second in command, spelled out the problem to this man who they had chosen to organize the killing of Robert and his father. The next day, Avellino and his brother Carmine, picked up Baratta and drove him out to Long Island to show him the critical path that would lead to the hit: the Kubecka and Barstow houses, their office and yard, the routes they used to and from work; everything had to be checked off in order to put the killings together the right way. The hit site had to be determined; they checked and rejected the men's homes, as there was not enough cover. The office was the perfect place, set in a quiet industrial street, bordering onto a park. The killers knew there would be no problem from the police-Avellino's pet detectives had told him that the Kubeckas were never guarded or protected by law enforcement officers. As Casso said later, 'if these guys had the proper surveillance on them, believe me they would have been hard to get to. Between me and you, they might even be alive today.'
Promises made, promises failed yet again, by the authorities.
By early June, Baratta (left) had chosen his hit team: Rocco Vitulli, in his thirties from Yonkers, a man who walked with a bad limp, and Frank 'Frankie Pearl' Federico, based in Brooklyn, in his early sixties. He escorted them across the proposed killing fields of Long Island, spending considerable time with them, as they scoped out the actual place chosen for the murders in East Northport.
Throughout the summer, the harassment on the Kubeckas continued. Someone drove by the office and tossed a firebomb into one of the garbage trucks. Robert kept getting menacing telephone calls. A mysterious car tailed members of the family. By now, both Robert and Donald were under severe stress, and more and more, their breakfast meetings at the Gaslight revolved around their thoughts of selling the business. Robert loved to cook gourmet food, and dreamed of becoming a chef with his own place, and they also talked about perhaps opening a boat or car dealership. A close friend of Robert's later recalled, 'He was looking to get out, this wasn't supposed to be a lifetime commitment; it wasn't worth it.'
On August 9th, Robert received another threatening phone call, and a man's thick, coarse voice told him that he was a dead man. Robert as he had done countless times, called the OCTF office in White Plains, miles away in Westchester County. He spoke to Tennien's partner, Alvin Jones, who told him to dial 911 and get a local police officer over to his house. The policeman arrived about 6 p.m. and wrote up a report.
That evening, Cathy remembered that when Donald came home from work he looked happy. 'He was such a handsome man,' she recalled.
They spoke about the threatening message Robert had received (Donald had been there at the office when the call came in,) and Donald reassured his wife, all was well. He told her that Robert had called the task force, and said that everything would be fine. When they had put their daughter to bed they sat and talked, and Cathy begged him not to go to work the next day. Donald told her not to worry, it would be okay. It was the last night they would ever spend together.
August 10th, 1989, was sunny and warm even before the sun rose. Robert and Donald were at their office in the red brick building early as usual, and their ten trucks were out on the road by 5:15 a.m. The friends were working in the office when two vehicles drove up and parked quietly in the empty street. By then, it was about 6 a.m. Carmine Avellino was in one car, and Anthony Baratta in the other with the two killers, who checked their guns, and walked quickly into the building.
They caught Donald Barstow in the hallway and blasted him to death. In the small cramped office it didn't go down so easily. Although he had a pistol, it was locked away in the office safe, but Robert wrestled with the two men and there was a massive struggle. Shots were fired wildly, bullets gouging into the office walls and ricocheting off the refrigerator standing in the corner. Furniture was overturned and files and papers knocked to the floor. They left Robert slumped over his desk, but in their haste to leave, left a black duffel bag containing two guns on the floor, in the corner of the office. They also left a pool of blood that was theirs, not Robert's. The mob had tried to intimidate him for twelve years without success, and even when they sent their hired guns to eliminate him, he went down fighting.
The two men rushed out of the building and Baratta followed Carmine Avellino who took them to a safe house, where they waited until it was cleared for them to return respectively to Manhattan and Brooklyn. The man who had been injured in that last, cataclysmic struggle, had been Federico who went into hiding.
Although grievously injured, Robert was able to dial 911, telling the operator, 'I've been shot. Two people have been shot. Send help.' When the police arrived, they found him still slumped across the desk. Rushed to Huntington Hospital, he was able to tell investigators that that his attacker was a white man in his 40s, before he died later that morning of gunshot wounds. The killers had not realized that the other man was not Jerry Kubecka: he and his son had been the targets. Still, as Casso later recalled, '.....if three of them were there, they would have shot all three.'
The day after the killings, the dead men's families read a newspaper report that indicated that the authorities had urged the men to enter the Witness Protection Program and change their identities. The source claimed that Donald had been offered every kind of aid in starting over again, but had refused. Another source close to the state task force claimed that somewhere, some time, they were sure somebody in the mob would deal with the Kubeckas. Donald's wife Cathy, and Nina were outraged. They claimed their husbands had been committed to the project, had trusted the OCTF, had never ever, been offered a refuge in the WPP and had been abandoned by the authorities. They took their grievances to court and the law agreed with them and found the two men had been cast adrift by the law.
‘These were two honest citizens who were given assurances that they were going to be protected, and they absolutely weren't,’ said Robert Folks, a lawyer for the men's families. ‘They were killed by the same people they testified against.’
In July 1998, Judge Leonard Silverman awarded the widows $10.8 million in damages.
In his ruling, Silverman rejected the state's defence that both men had been offered help from the federal witness protection program.
‘If the Organized Crime Task Force was unable to provide meaningful protection to the Kubecka family, it should not have given them these explicit assurances,’ he said. ‘Having given these assurances, the state may not repudiate them now that its beneficiaries have been murdered.’
They didn't stop there. In the spring of 2000 they filed claim against the $6.5 million that was forfeited by Salvatore Avellino in a conviction brought down by the federal government. They claimed that the money was rightfully theirs, as the government was only able to secure it through the efforts and deaths of their husbands.
From the very beginning of the murder hunt, the authorities were convinced that the killings were the work of the Luchese family, but had no evidence. The case stalled for over three years. Then, in January 1993, the FBI found Casso hiding with a girlfriend in New Jersey. He had been on the run for eighteen months, skipping as he was about to be arrested on a case involving a massive fraud involving the New York Housing Authority.
In May, the federal agents arrested Avellino at his palatial home, in Nissequogue. Casso, seeking a break on what he knew would be a life term prison sentence for the crimes he had committed, including 34 admitted murders, began to cooperate with the authorities, disclosing details about numerous mob killings, including the murder of Robert and Donald. In February 1994, Salvatore Avellino pleaded guilty to racketeering charges that included conspiracy to murder Kubecka and Barstow. He was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison.
In January 1995, based almost entirely on the evidence of Anthony Casso, the FBI indicted Carmine Avellino, Anthony Baratta, Vitulli and Federico on murder and racketeering charges. But in July, 1996, Carmine Avellino, Baratta and Vitulli were allowed to plead on lesser charges, and all mention of the killings was dropped. Federico was still missing. Some sources said he had fled to Sicily where he was living undercover; other information indicated that he was murdered to remove the one physical link into the killing that connected the Luchese family. The only other evidence to the killings, was the testimony of Casso, which for some reason, bothered the prosecutors, and they decided to drop it.
On January 27th., 2003 at 6:50 pm authorities arrested Federico (right) at a the little Twins Doughnut shop, huddling under the ‘El’ on East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. Federico was there for a meeting with a mob associate. Later it was confirmed by the authorities that it was Federico’s blood that was found at the East Northport, Long Island murder scene. In September 2004 Federico was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for the 1989 murders. Attorney William Gurin said that given Federico's advanced age, the penalty was essentially a life sentence. With time off for good behaviour, Federico would be eligible for release at the age of eighty-eight. Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block said it was unfortunate Federico had even a glimmer of hope of freedom someday.
He is serving time at Allenwood, Pennsylvania, and will be released in February, 2016.
He always claimed he was not involved in the shooting, and in fact was at work at Pandick Press, America's largest financial printer, on Broadway in Manhattan. According to Joe De Fede a member of the Luchese family administration, 'Frankie Pearls' was made into the Mafia in October 1989 as a reward for his good work in East Northport that August morning.
The tragic deaths of Robert and Donald, two men fighting the system on Long Island, had strange, deja vu overtones. In 1977, two other men trying to form a competing local to the powerful 813, in an attempt to overcome the same sort of problems, were brutally murdered, their bodies being stuffed into the trunk of car, left parked at Kennedy Airport. Their deaths however, were never solved, or any evidence produced to even suggest who the killers might have been.
Carmine Avellino pled guilty to extortion and like his brother, got ten and a half years. Baratta, by now was in prison on other charges and received a further four years. Vitulli, one of the alleged killers, for some reason pled on a gambling charge and was sentenced to four years in jail. The prosecutors felt they did not have a strong enough case against him for the murders. It didn't seem like a lot of time for career criminals who had organized the brutal murders of two innocent men.
Salvatore Avellino was originally scheduled for release from prison in 2006 when he would have been about seventy. He would get the chance to get back on the golf course, which was his first love, outside his life in the 'life,' and his palatial mansion in Nissequoge. Amuso and Casso are gone forever into the wastelands of the federal penitentiary system, Casso, now 70, is destined to spend his days for all time in the sterile confines of America's most stringent maximum prison in Florence, Colorado, locked down twenty three hours a day in a 12 x 7 cell.
Rocco Vitulli limped out of prison on September 7th 2000 and was last heard of living in Brooklyn. Maybe his reward for his involvement in the killing was to get his 'button,' to be made into the Luchese crime family. He was named on a mob list (it is customary in New York, because of the number of Mafia families, for the names of proposed new members to be circulated among the families so that objections can be raised before those nominated are elected) as a replacement for Salvatore 'Sally Shields' Shillitani, a long time made guy in the family, who had died in 1988 in Florida.
It has been suggested he was inducted into the Luchese family in 1991 at the home of Peter Vario, son of Paul Vario an old time family capo, deceased. He was apparently sponsored by Baratta, his team leader on the day of the killings.
Carmine Avellino was released from prison February 25th 2004, and Anthony Baratta is currently serving time for a variety of offences. He has a projected release-date of September 25, 2012 from the FCI Loretto
Dick Tennien, the OCTF supervisor who promised Robert and Donald all the protection in the world, died in April 2001. He was eulogized at the funeral as a pioneer in the investigation of organized crime. His partner Alvin Jones, the man Robert spoke to the day before he was murdered, retired to Queens. When asked about the case, he simply said, ' The deaths touched me very deeply, I've put it behind me.'
On September 26th., 1989, the town board of Huntigton, passed a resolution authorizing a name change for the Huntington Organic Gardens, a 15 acre, 3000 square foot plot situated at the junction of Dunlop and Greenlawn Roads, From 1973 until 1976, Robert had worked as an environmentalist for the town, and through his efforts, the garden had been established to provide residents with plots for individual gardens. What in Britain are called allotments.
It was the first of its kind in America-a place where fruit and vegetables could be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. The council's minutes confirm Robert's contribution to the town as immeasurable:
‘In recognition of his tragic death resulting from his efforts to remove the influence of organized crime from the carting industry, the council unanimously agreed, in his honour, to rename the garden The Robert M. Kubecka Memorial Organic Garden.'
Cathy, Robert's sister who had married Donald, left Long Island to start life again, and her sister-in-law, Nina, eventually re-married.
Jerry Kubecka also died in 2001, in the spring, twelve years after his son was shot dead in cold blood, protecting his business. In an interview not long before he died, he said about his son, ' He was a jewel, a good person. I wish I was half the person he was.'
‘The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.
Mark Anthony Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2.
I would like to acknowledge an article by Steve Wick in Newsday, 2001, as a source of reference for some of this story.
© Thom L. Jones. 2010