Feds: NYC mob leader ordered hit from prison
The case relies heavily on conversations between Vincent Basciano and jailed ex-Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, who secretly wore a wire
By Colleen Long
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Mobster “Vinny Gorgeous” ordered a hit on a disrespectful associate, and the proof is in testimony from former members of his crime family, federal prosecutors said Monday at his murder trial, where a defense attorney argued the mafia is full of double-crossing liars.
Vincent Basciano has been charged with capital murder and racketeering and could face the death penalty if convicted in the 2004 death of Randy Pizzolo. Closing arguments were held Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, and jurors were expected to get the case Tuesday. The 50-year-old Bonanno family capo is already serving a life term for a conviction in a separate case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank said Basciano ordered the hit from prison, where he continued to run operations.
“He tried to show he was still leading the charge ... ordering murders in his capacity as acting boss,” Frank told the anonymous jury. “Randy Pizzolo was executed. ... The defendant gave the order.”
The case relies heavily on conversations between Basciano and jailed ex-Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, who secretly wore a wire. Massino was the highest-ranking member of the city’s five Italian organized crime families to break their sacred vow of silence and testify against one of their own.
Prosecutors say Massino recorded Basciano in 2005 admitting he ordered a hit on Pizzolo. In one jailhouse tape played for the jury, Massino is heard asking Basciano if he used two shooters to “clip” the victim.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but I gave the order,” Basciano says.
Lawyers for the defendant say Basciano actually knew nothing about the killing and was only playing along to prevent a close mob associate from being punished for it.
“He didn’t know about it. He didn’t OK it, he didn’t give permission and he didn’t order it,” attorney George Goltzer said. “If Vinnie Basciano wanted him dead, he would’ve been dead in no time flat,” he said of the victim.
Other former Bonanno members who became government informants also testified for the prosecution, and Goltzer questioned their truthfulness. He painted a picture of a jumbled mess of paranoid mobsters willing to backstab, lie and cheat to get the best deal _ inside jail or out.
“Every one of these witnesses said lying was an everyday part of life,” Goltzer said.
Prosecutors say Basciano, the one-time owner of the Hello Gorgeous beauty salon, rose to his leadership role after a series of Bonanno defections and successful prosecutions in the 2000s decimated its leadership. Basciano ran mafia operations while Massino was jailed until he was also eventually arrested, authorities said.
In earlier testimony, a defense witness let slip that Basciano once put out a contract to kill U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who is presiding over his murder trial. Garaufis has presided over dozens of other mob cases, and Basciano maintains that what prosecutors called a hit list was part of a religious ceremony to ward off bad vibes from the people named on the list.
Massino is serving two consecutive life terms for eight murders. He testified that his cooperation spared his wife from prosecution, allowed her to keep their home and gave them a shot at a reduced sentence.
Other mob turncoats say Massino was involved in a payback killing in the infamous “Donnie Brasco” case. The story of Brasco, an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the mob, became a movie starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.