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                                                                    Posted 05/29/06                                                      Reply with quote #1

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                                                                     Vincent "Chin"
                                                                     Gigante, right, is
                                                                     escorted by his son
                                                                     Vincent Esposito as
                                                                     they leave Gigante's
                                                                     New York residence
                                                                     in this June 25, 1997
                                                                     file photo, when
                                                                     Gigante was facing
                                                                     trial in a federal court
                                                                     on multiple murder
                                                                     and racketeering
                                                                     charges. (AP
                                                                     Photo/Michael
                                                                     Schmelling, File).
                                                                    May 28, 2006, 6:03PM
                                                                     MICHAEL
                                                                    Ex-MobAPBoss Now a Devastating
                                                                    SCHMELLING:
                                                                    Informant
                                                                    By LARRY McSHANE Associated Press Writer
                                                                    © 2006 The Associated Press


                                                                    NEW YORK — The killers put the dead canary in the freezer. Later, their work finished,
                                                                    they placed the bird inside the mouth of the equally deceased Bruno Facciola.


                                                                    The August 1990 mob hit followed a tip from two corrupt NYPD detectives that the
                                                                    Luchese family capo had turned government informant. Facciola was stabbed, shot
                                                                    through both eyes and shot again in the head. Then came the bird. Message: Speak no
                                                                    evil.


                                                                    The slaying was orchestrated by a diminutive thug known to fellow Mafiosi as "Little Al."
                                                                    Few embraced the mob ethos more fervently than Alphonse D'Arco, a hard case from
                                                                    the cradle.


                                                                    "I was a man when I was born," Little Al once bragged. He committed every crime
                                                                    except pimping and pornography, which he deemed beneath his dignity. Murders? He
                                                                    committed eight while rising through the Luchese ranks.


                                                                    He especially despised informants. "Rats," he'd spit. He did a three-year heroin rap
                                                                    without opening his yap. So when word came that Facciola was singing, D'Arco arranged
                                                                    for his demise.

                                                                    And for the canary.


                                                                    Four months later, D'Arco became the Luchese boss, though not for long. His reign
                                                                    abruptly ended, but not in the fashion he expected: on the wrong end of a jury verdict.
                                                                    Or maybe a bullet.
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                                                        Instead, D'Arco _ disgusted by the loss of mob honor, double-crossed by men he had
                                                        respected _ became in 1991 what he most abhorred: a rat.


                                                        And not just any rat. Over the last 15 years, he has brought down mob bosses,
                                                        underbosses, consiglieres. And he's still making inmates out of ex-accomplices today.

                                                        Little Al may be the most devastating mob informant ever.


                                                        ___


                                                        Alphonse D'Arco, born July 28, 1932, grew up near the Brooklyn Navy Yards, a
                                                        neighborhood of heavyweight mobsters _ some his relatives. His childhood, D'Arco once
                                                        recalled, was "like being in the forest and all the trees were the dons and the organized
                                                        crime guys."


                                                        He walked into the woods without hesitation.


                                                        Two tenets of the old-school Mafia appealed to him: Loyalty and honor. Both extended
                                                        into his personal life.


                                                        In 1951, during the Korean War, D'Arco volunteered for the Army, served two years and
                                                        received an honorable discharge. When he returned to Brooklyn and the mob, he found
                                                        a wife; they remain married to this day. They had five children.


                                                        In 1959, D'Arco first met future Luchese family boss Vittorio Amuso. He was soon
                                                        making money for the Lucheses in a variety of ways: Hijacking. Drug dealing. Burglary.
                                                        Counterfeiting. Arson. Armed robbery.

                                                        D'Arco became a made man in a ceremony held in a Bronx kitchen. "I should burn like
                                                        this paper if I betray anyone in this room," he swore. It was Aug. 23, 1982. He was
                                                        particularly good with dates, as federal investigators would learn.


                                                        D'Arco had long ago resolved the differences between mob life and straight society. As
                                                        John Q. Citizen, D'Arco would have lived by the rules. As Alphonse D'Arco, mobster, he
                                                        would abide by the Mafia's code. He obeyed orders and his elders, kicked money up to
                                                        the bosses. He never cooperated with law enforcement.


                                                        But an erosion of mob values was under way.


                                                        Henry Hill was a Luchese associate and a cocaine dealer. Once arrested, he became the
                                                        most notorious Mafia turncoat of the 1980s. His testimony helped put away D'Arco's
                                                        capo, Paulie Vario, in 1984.


                                                        Hill's life was eventually turned into the classic mob movie, "GoodFellas." D'Arco stayed
                                                        in "The Life," and became Vario's replacement.


                                                        D'Arco's old friend Amuso soon became the head of the family, and his underboss was
                                                        another pal, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.


                                                        The mob world was good for D'Arco. He had about $1 million in loan-sharking money
                                                        spread around, and ran his own crew. The family hierarchy relied on him to handle
                                                        important business _ labor unions, racketeering, murder.


                                                        "He grew up in the life. It was something that he wanted, and succeeded at," said former
                                                        federal prosecutor George Stamboulidis.


                                                        D'Arco wore shirts with big "wiseguy" collars, and lived in an apartment in Little Italy.
                                                        The market rent was $1,200 a month; he paid $200.


                                                        A few months after they exposed Bruno Facciola, the two crooked detectives provided
                                                        Casso with a new bit of information: the underboss and Amuso were targeted for arrest.
                                                        On Jan. 9, 1991, the pair met with Little Al at a Brooklyn bar, where Amuso pronounced
                                                        him acting boss of the Lucheses.


                                                        Then Amuso and Casso disappeared.


                                                        ___
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                                                        During eight eye-opening months as boss, D'Arco's blind allegiance to the mob was
                                                        undermined.


                                                        From seclusion, Casso and Amuso started a whispering campaign against D'Arco among
                                                        the Luchese faithful. Yet D'Arco was unconvinced of their betrayal until the night of Sept.
                                                        18, 1991, when he attended a meeting in a Manhattan hotel room.


                                                        The vibe was ugly. Longtime Luchese associates appeared unnerved. A family hit man
                                                        was among the group, and D'Arco believed he was marked for death.


                                                        After bolting, he began to rethink his life. He considered going to war against the Amuso-
                                                        Casso faction. But that assumed a loyalty to the Lucheses that he no longer felt, a code
                                                        of honor that he no longer believed.


                                                        "So I says, `That's it,'" D'Arco explained later. "I washed my hands of the whole thing."


                                                        He sent most of his family to Hawaii for safety. D'Arco hid out while a deal was made.
                                                        On Sept. 21, 1991, Alphonse D'Arco became the most unlikely cooperating witness ever
                                                        recruited.


                                                        And one of the most expensive. The federal government spent more than $2 million to
                                                        relocate the D'Arco clan. Little Al and six other families were moved from New York to
                                                        parts unknown.


                                                        News of the stunning defection spread quickly through the underworld. An attorney was
                                                        dispatched to inform jailed Gambino boss John Gotti that Little Al was switching sides.


                                                        The acting boss would testify more than a dozen times against the mob's top echelon.
                                                        D'Arco was a combative and effective witness, his memory for details and dates
                                                        unshakable.


                                                        Testifying at a 1996 competency hearing for Genovese family boss Vincent "Chin"
                                                        Gigante, D'Arco flew into a rage. "Don't break my chops," D'Arco warned defense
                                                        attorney Michael Shapiro. "I'll break yours, too."


                                                        D'Arco's testimony helped convict Gigante and Colombo boss "Little Vic" Orena; ex-
                                                        cronies Amuso and Casso; Bonanno consigliere Anthony Spero; Genovese consigliere
                                                        James Ida; and an assortment of others.


                                                        He spilled about corruption in the unions, the Garment District, the airports.


                                                        "D'Arco gave them great value for the money," said defense lawyer Edward Hayes.
                                                        "D'Arco is a lunatic, but he has a story."


                                                        Once, in a Brooklyn courtroom, D'Arco stood before a federal judge who noted they had
                                                        grown up in the same nearby neighborhood.


                                                        "Yeah," D'Arco replied. "And we both rose to the top of our professions."


                                                        Ex-prosecutor Stamboulidis said D'Arco embraced his new calling as fervently as his old.


                                                        "When he entered an agreement with the government, he answered all the questions
                                                        with brutal honesty and thoroughness," said Stamboulidis, now a partner in the
                                                        Manhattan firm of Baker Hostetler. "A true believer does everything 100 percent. He
                                                        believes 100 percent in his current position."


                                                        In return, D'Arco was sentenced in November 2002 to time served. He was fined $50,
                                                        and returned to obscurity.


                                                        While mob turncoats like Hill and Sammy "The Bull" Gravano went back to jail, D'Arco
                                                        stayed on the right side of the law. And one of the biggest trials lay ahead _ one that
                                                        brought him back to the day when Bruno Facciola had a canary for his last meal.


                                                        ___


                                                        It was March 2005 when federal authorities announced the indictments of Stephen
                                                        Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, former NYPD detective partners turned partners-in-crime.
                                                        The two were charged with taking $4,000 a month from Gaspipe Casso to work as
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                                                                                 Luchese hit men.


                                                                                 On occasion, they slipped the underboss inside information. They told Casso that
                                                                                 Facciola was reportedly working as an informant, authorities charged, and Casso
                                                                                 ordered D'Arco to handle the hit.

                                                                                 Little Al was called again to testify.


                                                                                 The ex-boss, now 73, looked more grandfatherly than Godfatherly on the stand, but his
                                                                                 thick Brooklyn accent was unchanged by years of life outside the city.

                                                                                 He stood firm under withering cross-examination from Hayes and former Gotti lawyer
                                                                                 Bruce Cutler. Caracappa and Eppolito were quickly convicted, and faced life in prison.
                                                                                 D'Arco slipped back into the Witness Protection Program.


                                                                                 But there was a moment during his testimony when he recalled a less complicated time.


                                                                                 Cutler, his voice booming, recited a litany of perks that came D'Arco's way from his
                                                                                 agreement to be an informant: No jail time. A new identity. An attorney, free of charge.


                                                                                 "That's another reward, yes?" Cutler asked.


                                                                                 "I don't see anything to be a reward," D'Arco responded without hesitation. "I'd trade it
                                                                                 all to go back on Spring Street."



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