Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York on April 13, 1979 · Page 2
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Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York · Page 2

Rochester, New York
Issue Date:
Friday, April 13, 1979
Page 2
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2A ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE Friday, Apr. 13, 1979 The Jury Rises 4 ' Cops against cops and the mob went free This article is based on information from police and mob sources and records of court proceedings. By MICHAEL ZEIGLER Assistant Metro Editor Jimmy Massaro never went anywhere without his "six little friends." They didn't do him any good on Nov. 23, 1973. That's the day Massaro, a soldier in the Rochester Mafia, was murdered by other Mafia members. His "six little friends" the bullets of his .25-caliber pistol never had a chance to help him. Within three years of his death, six reputed Rochester mobsters were convicted of killing Massaro. The prosecutors and cops who got the convictions hummed the theme from "The Godfather" as they celebrated in a Third Ward tavern, confident they'd broken the back of the mob. A new stanza was added to the song yesterday when a federal grand jury handed up indictments charging sever- al of the participants in that celebration with federal crimes. The indictments are the latest development in the worst law enforcement scandal in Monroe County's history. Already, five of the six men convicted in Massaro's death have been freed because sheriff's detectives admitted concocting evidence against them. In the past 18 months as the cops and federal authorities have investigated the cops the sheriff's detective bureau has been riddled with resignations, suspensions, indictments and convictions. The chief of detectives pleaded guilty to two crimes and was sent to jail. It all started with the death of Jimmy Massaro. Here's how it happened, and why. Massaro called Nov. 23, 1973. A Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Vincent James Massaro, a construction foreman and soldier in the Rochester Mafia, was watching television at the Chili apartment of his girlfriend, Rose Rotondi. The phone rang and Massaro answered it. "I'll straighten that son-of-a-bitch out," Mrs. Rotondi said she heard him say. Then he slammed down the receiver. . "He said it was Angelo Monachino that called. . .and he had to straighten some things out," Mrs. Rotondi said later. "I asked him if he was sure he should go. , "He saicf, 'Yes, because I've got my six little friends with me.' Those were his bullets. He always called them his six little friends." Massaro jammed his .25-caliber automatic pistol into a pocket of his light-colored houndstooth trousers and left in a hurry. He didn't even put a jacket on over his sweater or replace his house slippers with shoes. But he told Mrs. Rotondi not to worry. "I'll get them before they get me," he said. It was mild, in the mid-50s, and a hint of rain was in the air as Massaro got into his white one-year-old Ford LTD and drove to Bar-Mon Construction Co., 400 Western Drive, Brighton. Monachino was president of Bar-Mon and Massaro was a foreman for the company on a Webster sewer project. But their association went deeper. Massaro specialized in arson-for-hire and Monachino was one of his helpers. He'd also helped the mob pull off a robbery. Massaro didn't know it, but he was driving to death. Just 10 days before, Mafia soldiers Joseph "Spike" Lano-vara and Eugene DeFrancesco claim they had been ordered to kill him. Mob was upset The local mob was upset because Massaro was talking to outsiders about "The Organization," as its members called it. He also was suspected of free-lancing crimes without the. mob's approval. Massaro's death warrant was issued at a Nov. 13, 1973 meeting, Monachino said. , Later, Monachino's version of the events including his role in them and whether the meetings he talked about even took place would be disputed. "Among other things, Jimmy Massaro has talked to a stranger and he must die," Monachino quoted Samuel "Red" Russotti, a reputed mob leader, as saying. Ten days passed and Massaro still was alive. Another meeting was held Nov. 23 and Russotti expressed his displeasure, Monachino claimed. And another order came down: Massaro must die, and Monachino was told to make sure of it. Later that day, at 5 p m., Monachino called Massaro. Massaro was watching Oklahoma clobber Nebraska 27-0 in a college football game, but Monachino said he needed to see Massaro right away at Bar-Mon about some arson equipment Massaro was supposed to move. Massaro arrived a half hour later, the headlights of his car reflecting off the door of the construction company's garage as he pulled into a driveway next to it. DeFrancesco walked from the garage into tn adjacent offkt where Lanovjara qjjs waiting, and closed the door, leaving Monachino alone in the garage with Monachino's St. Bernard watchdog. Monachino had already hidden a .38-caliber revolver under a telephone book on a shelf at a wall phone. Massaro came in through a side door. The garage was dimly lit by a single row of fluorescent lights. Nervously, Monachino walked to-, ward the phone and started dialing with his left hand, holding the receiver in the same hand, as he fumbled for the gun with his right hand. He pulls a gun As he fumbled, Massaro reached into his pants pocket with his right hand and pulled out his pistol, Monachino said. Informer, convicted "He was trying to load it," Monachino said. "He had to pull the top back to get the bullet into the chamber. I dropped the phone and really went for the gun under the phone book." While Massaro and Monachino fumbled, DeFrancesco settled the matter by coming out of the office and shooting Massaro in the back of the head from about three feet away, Monachino later testified. "He (Massaro) fell on his back," Monachino said. "Gene emptied the gun in his face." The dog cowered by Monachino's feet. Massaro was shot eight times once in the back of the head, six times in the forehead and once in the neck. Monachino, DeFrancesco and Lano-vara loaded Massaro's body into the trunk of his car. It wasn't a hard job; Massaro was only 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 145 pounds. Into the trunk, with the body, went Massaro's pistol and his house slippers. The car was driven to Atkinson Street and left. Five days later, a Rochester policeman found the body after a neighbor complained about an abandoned car across the street. A year later, no arrests had been made. Pecora talks Francis J. Pecora was the first to sing. v His discussions with Monroe County sheriff's detectives were the beginning of a chain that brought down the whole house of cards. "I should have kept my mouth shut and gone to jail," Pecora said. "Then none of this would have happened." 'Jimmy the Hammer Massaro Pecora, 30, was a professional shoplifter. He was arrested in August 1974 for the theft of $8,000 in diamond rings from a Present Co. store in Penfield. While he was free on bail, sheriff's deputies were called to Pecora's home to handle a domestic disturbance. While the shouting was going on, Pecora's wife pointed a finger at several guns and appliances in. the home and said her 6-foot-2, 275-pound husband had come by them through methods that were less than honest. Detectives wanted to know more, so they took Pecora in for questioning. He saw the light, turned informant and fingered William P. "Zeke" Zimmerman,' 35, as a fellow shoplifter and receiver of stolen goods. Chief of Detectives William C. Ma-honey was intrigued. He knew Zim- W D&C Graphics by Joan Best murderer Al DeCanzio merman was selling stolen goods to Mafia members and might have information on them. Less than a year before, when Sheriff William M. Lombard had taken office, Lombard had given Mahoney the go-ahead to crack down on organized crime. Under Mahoney's orders, Pecora visited Buffalo on Dec. 18, 1974, Pecora said. The next day he came back with $1,200 in stolen goods from various stores. With the help of Detective Anthony Malsegna, he hid the car in a Church-ville garage, then called Zimmerman from a pay phone at the sheriff's department and made a deal to sell the stolen goods to him. The goods were delivered to Zimmerman's home in Gates. And at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1974, sheriff's detectives knocked on Zimmerman's front door and arrested him for possession of stolen property. Other arrests were made at the same time, but Pecora's unusual role in setting up Zimmerman wasn't disclosed. Mahoney was so happy with his new game he gave it the name of "Operation Step-up." His theory was that by starting with information on minor crimes, he could "step up" to nail the murderers of Jimmy Massaro. "We just worked our way up that ladder and then, bang, bang, bang," an exuberant Mahoney said then. Russo fingered Zimmerman wasn't going to take the fall, either. "I have never seen anything like it," Mahoney said. "He knew what he stole, who he sold it to and when and for how much he sold it." Zimmerman fingered Russell Russo, 39, of Irondequoit, for possession of stolen property. Russo a short, bearded man was more than helpful to detectives. He was willing to tell them about the March 30, 1973 robbery of $26,000 from an auto license bureau in Irondequoit. Detectives were particularly interested because Ernest D. White Jr., one of the suspected bandits, had been murdered and his body dumped into a sewer. On Jan. 17, 1975, Russo signed an affidavit implicating Charles M. Monachino whom he described as his best friend and Monachino's brother Angelo in the robbery. But there was more. Russo also claimed in the affidavit that Charles Monachino had told him before White's death that White had been recognized by police, had a big mouth and had to be killed. The affidavit also said that Lawrence J. Masters, the license bureau's manager, had been part of the robbery. Based on the affidavit, Mahoney sent out orders to pick up Charles Monachino and Masters. There was only one problem, Russo kept telling detectives. Parts of the affid&it weren't true. 'Forced to sign' As the scandal later unfolded, Russo said that Assistant District Attorney Patrick J. Brophy, Detective Lt. John Kennerson and Mahoney wrote what they wanted on the affidavit, then forced him to sign it. He told them that Masters was innocent, Russo claimed, but none of them were interested. "They said I'd never go home unless I signed it," Russo said. "So I signed it." Click, click, click. Things were going together well for sheriff's detectives. Charles Monachino was cooperative. In return for immunity from prosecution, Charles Monachino signed an affidavit claiming that Albert J. DeCanzio Jr. had engineered the auto license bureau robbery, then killed White when he discovered that police had recognized White. DeCanzio was no small fish. He had been a driver, cook, mechanic and confidant of Frank J. Valenti, the former boss of Rochester's mob. The reason he knew these things, Charles Monachino said, was that he'd helped DeCanzio plan the robbery and was present when DeCanzio killed White, But Monachino's affidavit claimed he didn't know in advance that White was to die. Two months later, in March, Charles Monachino fingered his brother Angelo and DeCanzio in another murder the Dec. 14, 1970 mob slaying of William T. Constable Jr., a contractor who worked for Bar-Mon Construction. Both were arrested, although Angelo Monachino was freed on bail and the charge against DeCanzio later was dropped. The informers were coming through and Operation Step-up was stepping ahead. "If things keep falling into place, we could go on forever," Mahoney said. Russo hidden DeCanzio's trial for killing White began in April 1975. The star witness, Charles Monachino, testified that he saw DeCanzio shoot White to death on April 1, 1973, but didn't know DeCanzio was going to do it. The testimony conflicted with Russo's affidavit that Charles Monachino had told him before White's murder that White had to die. But there was a hitch no one outside the police and prosecution knew of the affidavit's existence. . The affidavit would have been a crucial factor in DeCanzio's defense. It would have implicated Monachino as an accomplice in the murder. By state law, once he was determined to be an accomplice, his testimony would have to be corroborated by someone else. But there wasn't someone else. Knowing what would happen if Russo testified, sheriff's detectives kept him hidden for three days during the trial in Former Chief of Detectives William Mahoney the detective bureau, Russo later told state and federal grand juries investigating corruption in the sheriff's department. The move was made at the suggestion of Kennerson and with the knowledge of Mahoney and Lombard, Russo said. Monachino testified solemnly at the trial and the jury decided that he hadn't participated in the killing of White. The affidavit which said he knew in advance of the killing and thus was an accomplice never was brought up. ". . .in your investigation, did you find evidence of (Monachino's) intent to assist in the homicide and killing of . Ernest White?" DeCanzio's lawyer, James V. Philippone, asked Mahoney. 'I did not," Mahoney answered, DeCanzio was convicted. Like Pecora, Zimmerman, Russo and Charles Monachino before him, he immediately became a poLRe informer. As a reward tor nis cooperation, ne was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Arsons outlined Beginning in early June 1975, DeCanzio told sheriff's detectives what they wanted to hear. Arson investigators had always been suspicious about the Christmas Day, 1971 fire at Select Tire Co., a former tire warehouse in Irondequoit. " The warehouse had burned to the ground. DeCanzio told them Angelo Monachino and other mob members had helped set the fire and several other arsons in Monroe County. ' And he told them something else: the Columbus Day, 1970 bombings of two government buildings, two black churches and the home of a labor leader also had been a mob action. Investigators previously had thought it the work of left-wing radicals. Detectives cut short Angelo Monachino's fishing trip to arrest him. They offered him immunity from the Constable murder charges and other possible charges if he'd talk. He talked. Angelo Monachino backed up DeCanzio's stories on the arsons and the bombings. He also implicated several reputed mobsters in the death of Jimmy Massaro and told investigators what part he had played in it. In the summer of '75, things began moving faster. Operation Step-up began to step out. More arrests The arrests came faster and faster, like a snowball rolling down a mountain, as Angelo Monachino talked, June 27: Six men were charged in Massaro's murder. They were Rene J. Piccarreto and Samuel J. "Red" Russotti, reputed bosses of the Rochester Mafia; Salvatore "Sammy G" Gingel-lo, reputed mob underboss; Joseph "Spike" Lanovara,, a former bootlegger; Eugene DeFrancesco, a convicted loanshark; and Richard J. Marino, then director of the Allied Building Trades Council. June 30: Lawyer Samuel J. Di-Gaetano and Thomas E. Marotta were charged with plotting to kill Lombard. July 10: Chili dentist Patrick J. Roncone was arrested on arson and conspiracy charges connected with a fire in a house he owned. July 18: A grandjury indicted teamsters union leader Samuel C. Campanella and Marotta with the murder of Massaro, in addition to the six men already charged. July 25: Eight men were indicted in connection with the Columbus Day, 1970 bombings. They were Anthony Gingello, head of a city employees' union; his brother Salvatore Gingello, already indicted in Massaro's death; Frank J. Valenti, reputed former boss of the Rochester mob; Angelo Vaccaro, a former Rochester gambler; Thomas C. DiDio, Dominic Celestino, DeFrancesco and Piccarreto. Sept. 11: Six men were indicted on arson charges. They were former Rochester Fire Chief Joseph J, Nalore; Valenti; Piccarreto, DeFrancesco; and Anthony J. Giardina and Lawrence J. Uchie, former co-owners of Select Tire Co., which burned in 1971, Most of those charges would be dropped because of a lack of evidence or the defendants would be found innocent. Of all those arrested, DeFrancesco was found guilty on two charges and Valenti, Roncone and Uchie were convicted of lesser charges. The same would hold true for Masters, found guilty in the robbery of his license bureau, then freed when Russo's suppressed affidavit was found. But 'at was later. For now, it appeared that Rochester's Mafia had Ex-DA Raymond A. Cornelius been smashed. Once again, Mahoney was exuberant. 'Getting there' "We started out last fall, planning to take it just one step at a time to see how far we could go," he said. "Now . we're getting there." Mahoney talked of police tactics. "Our techniques get more sophisticated as we get into more sophisticated crime," he said. "But the most important thing is still interrogation. You have to get the information from somebody who was involved." But how good was that information? The first test came immediately. When Angelo Monachino turned informer, he told detectives that the death of Jimmy Massaro had been plotted at meetings on Nov. 13 and 23, 1973 in a house on Longview Terrace. Lanovara told the same story when he turned informer after his indictment. But since both men said they'd taken part in the conspiracy, prosecutors needed corroborating evidence that the meeting had taken place. The word of Monachino and Lanovara legally wasn't enough. In June, just before the arrests, Assistant District Attorney Raymond E. Cornelius put out a request to all police agencies in Monroe County. Had any of them, he asked, done surveillance of the Longview Terrace home in November 1973? Notes surface Strangely enough, one had. Kennerson said he looked through some boxes in his basement and came up with notes, written on yellow legal paper, that outlined surveillance of the house on Nov. 23. Suddenly, Kennerson said he remembered that Michael J. Cerretto, who preceded Mahoney as the sheriff's chief of detectives, had asked him to stake out the house on that day in the belief that illegal gambling profits were being divided there. Click, click, click. Once again, things fell into place. The surveillance notes and testimony about them were damning to the defense. In October 1976, at the trial of five of those charged, sheriff's Detective William P. Marks testified how he had taken those notes while sitting in a car 300 feet from the house. He told how he identified four men all defendants entering the house. ("11:40 am Sammy G. and unknown white male, 5 '10, med build, dark hair, brown jacket arrive. Cars parked in front of house, both sides, "part of the notes read.) "Is it your testimony that you recognized human beings by their faces from a distance of 300 feet or more?" defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey asked. "Yes sir," Marks said. The jurors were taken to Longview Terrace to see for themselves if a person could be identified from that distance. Kennerson and Mahoney also testified. The notes, they said, were authentic. . Five men Salvatore Gingello, Piccarreto, Russotti, DeFrancesco and Marotta were convicted of Massaro's death. Marino had been convicted in a previous trial and charges against Campanella were dropped during the trial because of insufficient evidence. The police and prosecution gathered at Earl's Grill, one of the few Third Ward taverns to survive urban renewal, and toasted their good fortune. When Cornelius walked through the door of the back room where the celebration was being held, his colleagues greeted him, glasses raised, by humming a few bars of the theme from the movie "The Godfather." One of the celebrants was informer Angelo Monachino. Turn to Page 3A

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