Gambino Family

Florida Representatives

Capiregime (Captains)

Ettore "Terry aka Mr. Z" Zappi

  Born on the 4th of July in 1904, Ettore 'Terry' Zappi was a close cousin to don Carlo Gambino. Zappi came up through the ranks with Gambino and was duly rewarded a crew of his own when cousin Carlo became boss of the syndicate in 1957.

  Zappi dabbled in the mainstays of cosa nostra, loansharking and bookmaking, but was best remembered for his role in crime family's pornography racket. Faciltators of peep shows, porn films and strip joints found few financial backers. Zappi and Co. were happy to provide.

  Although never proven, it was long alleged that Zappi provided partial financing for the 'historic' X-rated film Deepthroat. The producers and directors were the Peraino brothers, financially assisted by Sonny Franzese, all were made members or top associates of the Colombo crime family. Afterwards the mob proceeded to bootleg the film over and over again, threatening porn theaters if they dared not debut the film and setting one such establishment on fire. At the early birth of the porn business in California, Zappi sent William Haimowitz west to scope out territory and investment potential. Haimowitz was described as 'being raised' by Zappi. Haimowitz would make strong contacts with the Los Angeles crime family, primarily through Jimmy Frattiano.

  By the early-mid 1970s Zappi was meeting frequently with Robert DiBernardo. At the time DiBernardo was associated with the DelCavalcante crime family of New Jersey and the co owner of Star Distributors of New York. DiBernardo's company worked in such a way, retailers could buy from them or they would no longer have a business. Bringing DiBernardo into his fold also brought in Reuben Sturman of Cleveland, who himself operated a similar distributorship known as Crown News and Industries and it worked in the same manner as Star. Sturman would be protected by DiBernardo. Besides Sturman, DiBernardo exerted considerable influence over Michael Thevis of Atlanta. Thevis's company Book Bin, Inc. would be shut down because he had to serve a three year sentence for mailing obsecene material in the mid 1970s. His business partner Laverne Bowden would continue to operate the interests, which at the height consisted of 100s of adult bookstore all on Thevis's vendor list, after changing the name to Peachtree National Distributors.

  It was believed that Zappi sponsored DiBernardo for Gambino family membership. DiBernardo had already built a reputation as a consistent earner that brought little in the way of attention from law enforcement. Zappi would also propose his son Anthony for membership.

  Zappi also forged ties with Providence porn king Kennth Guarino. The latter would go on to build a colossal porn empire known as Metro Global Empire (later a publicly traded stock) that was described as multifacted. Gambino mobster and crew member Natale Richichi would inherit Guarino's business interests from Zappi, which then would be primarily operating in Las Vegas and both would later (late 1990s) stand trial for tax evasion. Richichi ultimately died in prison from natural causes while Guarino began a four year sentence in 1997 following a plea agreement.

  Having made plenty of profits in the northeast and California, Zappi set up operations in Florida. Zappi was also looking to fall back into semi retirement after having built a crew that consisted of his son, DiBernardo, Richichi, Guarino, Haimowitz and his brother Sam. Besides the porn crew, rackets like burglaries, loansharking and bookmaking would be managed by Florida based Gambino soldiers Joe Silesi, Joe 'Demus' Covello, Dave 'Davey Crocket' Iacovetti and Joseph 'Joe Scootch' Indelicato.

  In Florida Zappi put Natale Richichi to work by shaking down south Florida peep show operations and operated under the name S.D. Art. Richichi lasted until April 1976 when he was called before a grand jury in New Jersey. He was replaced by Michael Wisotsky. In due time Zappi would control the flow of porn material in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Wisotsky would personally make sure that every peepshow and strip joint in Palm Beach county and south would be under Zappi's control.

  Between DiBernardo, Zappi and Bonanno crime family caporegime and fellow porn peddler Mickey Zaffarano, the FBI began to take note of the mob's involvement in porn. Several minor cases had already transpired with successful convictions in dealing with mailing obscene material, however none of the convicted were wiseguys. Zappi and others had long figured out there was more money to be made selling the bootlegged product as opposed to dealing in the genuine article not to mentioned shaking down the operator of a porn shop because who is going to listen to their tale of woe? Certainly not a local cop who would just assume their storefront be shut down.

  The FBI's Miami office set up a sting and built a case known as 'Mi Porn', short for Miami. The agents posed as dealers in smut and quickly established a case built on extortion and counterfeiting of x-rated films. It also revealed the mob's involvement in piracy of box office films as well.

  The Mi Porn case would be mired in controversy. One of the agents working undercover was later arrested for shoplifting, which destroyed his ceditibility on the witness stand. When indictments were handed down in 1980 the Bonanno's porn gangster Zaffrano would die of a heart attack during the serving of a subpeona. The Peraino brothers were involved in a public shoot out while walking in Brooklyn for what was believed to be have been the profits made from Deepthroat that never reached the Colombo family boss's coffers. Forty nine out of the fifty five that were charged were later convicted, Robert DiBernardo being one of them. Zappi's dominance over the porn business had been decimated. By then, however, Zappi was old and thought to have been comfortably retired.

  Zappi's son Anthony never reached the heights of his father in the porn shakedown and would command minor entries in the annals of organized crime. In 1980 John Gotti, still then a relatively unknown mobster to the press, had the misfortune of having his son was killed while he was driving a motorbike. The accident was done by local Queens resident John Favara, an average citizen and not affiliated with the mob. By all accounts Favara was deeply upset and likewise so was Gotti. After being advised not to offer condolences to the Gotti family Favara was issued several threats. Finally at his wit's end Favara sought the counsel of Anthony Zappi someone he apparently knew since childhood. Anthony Zappi uttered the words 'get the hell out of Queens and get rid of your car'. The car was the same one he was driving when he struck and killed Frank Gotti, who was more than likely illegally riding his bike as it was not intended to be driven in a residential area. In July of that year Favara disappeared while Gotti and his wife enjoyed a Florida vacation.

  Anthony Zappi would later be mentioned as being the head of Local 854 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in New York, specializing in another mob racket-controlling the transportation business of school buses. He would work in tandem with fellow Gambino members Frank Dappolito and Eddie Lino along with Colombo crime family capo Nicholas 'Nicky Black' Grancio and Genovese crime family associate Julius Bernstein. Zappi controlled the unions, using sitdowns and strikes as means to make the NYC metro area school district grant contracts to their bussing companies. This racket was first brought to light in 1990, thought to have been in existence for at least 10 years prior and until 2005 was still operating. In 1990 Zappi and others were thought to have juggled an estimated $32 million on services rendered and fees.

  In December 1985 the ebb and flow of the Gambino criminal empire was forever changed. Boss Paul Castellano, annoited king of the heap by his cousin Carlo Gambino on his deathbed, was ambushed and murdered in mid town Manhattan on order of Queens capo John Gotti. Zappi by all accounts and given his age never protested his cousin's choice to fill his shoes and along with the elder capos were, well, just too old to fight the Gotti loyalists. Gotti was thought to have contacted Zappi's son following the aftermath with assurances that 'everything was going to be fine'. If Zappi was a nostalgic type he must have known that was not the case, he had lived the mob's glory years and that those years were over.

  Outside of the porn business Zappi and his son invested in Bobby Rubino's Ribs, a restaurant chain based in Ft. Lauderdale. Besides the Zappis, cousins Joe and Paul Castellano (sons of the slain Paul Castellano) and Anthony Scotto Jr. (son of Anthony Scotto, legendary Gambino family capo and ruler of the Brooklyn waterfront) were early investors. In 2000 Frank Galgano, Zappi's grandson and chief operator of Bobby Rubino's, pled out for failing to pay Florida state income tax and will be on probation until 2012. In July 1986 Ettore Zappi died in Ft. Lauderdale at the age of 82. His son Anthony passed away in April 1995 at the age of 70.

Robert "D.B." DiBernardo
Robert "D.B." DiBernardo was groomed under capo and Gambino cousin Ettore Zappi. The Zappi crew specialized in the seedy pornographic world, Florida rackets and loansharking. DiBernardo proved to be one of the most capable earners in the Gambino LCN Family. DiBernardo may have actually been "made" into the New Jersey LCN Family before being transferred.

In 1981 DiBernardo would be convicted in the MiPorn Trial in Florida and serve a less than year sentence with fines. DiBernardo created a stir when it was discovered that his porn distribution company was based in a Times Square commercial building owned by the husband of 1984 Democrat Party Vice President nominee Geraldino Ferraro. He would also add labor racketeering through the hauling of construction supplies to his criminal cache. DiBernardo also held an interest in the porn production company LA Video, based in California, along with gangster Ruben Stein. The next year he conspired with John Gotti in the murder of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano. In exchange he was promoted to capo in January 1986, as an ailing Zappi had asked to retire and would die of natural causes shortly afterwards.

In 1986 Gotti and others were on trial and DiBernardo would disappear in the spring of that year. While the popular word was that DiBernardo challenged Gotti's abilities while he was in jail, a little known fact has rarely been given the proper light until now. It was known that DiBernardo had loaned $100,000 to Gotti pal and capo Angelo Ruggiero under the belief that it was to establish a loanshark book. Ruggiero was indicted on narcotics trafficking. Fearing he wouldn't be repaid and linking his name to the case, he demanded repayment. DiBernardo, who served as a Little League coach and was respected by many neighbors who were unaware of his activities, was denied and hasn't been seen since. His daughter has successfully blocked the attempts of former Gambino underboss turned government witness Sammy Gravano's attempts to profit from his life of crime in his book "Underboss".

Natale "Big Chris" Richichi
Natale "Big Chris" Richichi was another soldier groomed under the crew led by the pornographer Ettore Zappi. Upon the disappearance of Robert DiBernardo in 1986 Richichi was named capo and given control over a small Florida based crew of soldiers. In addition to this, Richichi, who is often a forgotten member during the very public years of boss John Gotti, also held strong contacts with the Boston branch of the New England-Patriarca LCN Family. In fact during the early 1980s local investigators in Boston once photographed him meeting with then New England underboss Gerry Anguillo.

Underboss turned witness Sammy Gravano states by the late 1980s Richichi had moved to Las Vegas and retired. Well, Gravano has been proven a liar before and this statement was certainly false. Richichi was very busy. In fact in 1996 he was convicted in Florida for federal fraud and extortion charges, sentenced to six years. In 1997 he pled out along with porn distributor Kenneth Guarino to extortion and tax evasion charges. Richichi was sentenced to 41 months. The elder capo had far from given up the porn racket. Richichi died on January 20, 2001 at the Federal Prison Hospital in Springfield, MO. His criminal interests were inherited by Gambino soldiers Anthony Mascuzzio and Nunzio Russo, who Gravano claimed took over much of the previous DiBernardo rackets.

Other Capiregime (Captains)

Anthony "Fat Andy" Ruggiano
Anthony "Fat Andy" Ruggiano hailed from Ozone Park, Queens. A capo under Paul Castellano it was said to have been a close associate to the mob boss. Although from the same stomping grounds as capo John Gotti it was known they didn't move in the same circles. By the late 1970s Ruggiano was an established presence in Miami. He operated a crew specializing in loansharking through soldier Sal Reale, gambling, afterhour clubs and construction shakedowns.

It was through another soldier not within his crew, one Tommy Agro, that Ruggiano got to know associate Joe Ianuzzi. Agro and Ianuzzi would have a violent falling out. Later Ianuzzi would wear a tape recorder and involve the bribery of a Riviera Beach sheriff. In 1985, with the sting coming to a close, Ruggiano went on the lam and disguised himself in a biker gang. He was apprehende two years later and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Ruggiano died of a heart attack at the age of 72 in March 1999.

Anthony "Tony Pep" Trentacosta
Anthony "Tony Pep" Trentacosta came into the fold through his Queens pal John Gotti. In 1982 he was busted during a gambling raid known as the "Mott Street" bust. By the 1985, the same year as Paul Castellano's murder, "Tony Pep" was being known as an earner and received his button when the crime boss was murdered in December. He would then skim tax dollars off gasoline stations and bring in some very sizeable tribute to Gotti.

By the late 1980s Trentacosta had received permission to set up shop in Atlanta. Law enforcement claim that he was the first "made" member of La Cosa Nostra to do so. While in Atlanta he purchased a platial estate. With the March 1999 death of capo Andy Ruggiano, Trentacosta inherited a south Florida crew that delved in loansharking, extortion and bank fraud. The crew operated out of a pizzeria known as Beachside Mario's located in Sunny Isles Beach, FL.

In 2001 Trentacosta, his crew members Freddi Massaro and Ariel Hernandez were indicted on racketeering charges. Massaro and Hernandez were found guilty of loansharking, check and bank fraud. They were also sentenced to life for a 1999 murder of an exotic dancer. Trentacosta would be sentenced to 8 years in April 2002 and sign an admittance with the federal government stating he was a member of the Gambino LCN Family.

Vincent Artuso
Who would have thought a heroin dealer from Bronx would swagger on the Gambino crime family, rise to the rank of capo and eventual overlord of the syndicate's Florida operations? Vincent Artuso did just that and came to the attention of the feds as one of the labeled 'backup' shooters on the Castellano-Billotti double murder on December 16, 1985. Artuso, according to former Gambino underboss Sammy Gravano, froze and never got close enough to fire a shot. The embarassed Artuso could rest easily given the fact that both Castellano and Bilotti were very dead when their bodies hit the pavement.

 Prior to this infamous role Artuso had served federal time for dope dealing. Later on he violated the parole agreement on the drug charges, serving a quick two years and was released in 1995. He has since packed his bags and presumably some of his Bronx crew, relocating to Florida and overseeing the crime family's Sunshine State rackets. It's hard to fathom that someone with Artuso's background would have been pegged with a Gambino button by the likes of Castellano or that he would be watching over the Florida crimes. Artuso is yet another example of just how far the Gambino ladder has slipped. BR>
  In October 2008 a Florida courtroom convicted Artuso on counts ranging from extortion to loansharking. Prosecutors presented evidence that after leasing several buildings in Miami from ADT Security Services that he and his crew attempted to defraud the company of $11 million. Several months later he was sentenced to nine years.

Soldati (Soldiers)

Frank "The Bear" Basto
Considered by law enforcement intelligence to be a made member of the Gambino Crime Family operating in both New Jersey and Florida. Basto has a criminal record dating back to 1956, including convictions on conspiracy to commit murder, arson and federal firearms offences. Basto's most recent conviction came in 2002 in which he pled guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine after he took delivery of two kilograms of cocaine from an undercover detective in Broward County, Florida. The conviction was part of organized crime investigation in Broward County called 'Operation Goodfellas' which also included the arrests of Basto's associates Joseph P Fafone and his son Joseph J Fafone. Basto is currently serving a sentence of five years and five months in a federal prison.

Hosted by