Real Crime - - Contents - Words Seth Fer­ranti

How has Carmine ‘ The Snake’ Per­sico stayed don of the Colombo crime fam­ily de­spite be­ing in prison for over 30 years?

Carmine ‘ The Snake’ Per­sico’s sta­tus in the Amer­i­can Mafia is some­thing of an anom­aly. He’s still alive, he’s not a ‘ rat’, and was even pow­er­ful enough dur­ing his long reign to call the shots from prison after be­ing con­victed in the in­fa­mous Mafia Com­mis­sion Trial. He has be­come pos­si­bly one of the most po­lar­is­ing mob fig­ures of the last 50 years, both in the un­der­world and in main­stream pop cul­ture. Per­sico is the last real, old- school mob boss of our time, who some have la­belled ‘ The Im­mor­tal’.

But oth­ers ar­gue with equal pas­sion that Per­sico was only ever out for one per­son – him­self – and this per­sona has led to him be­ing called ‘ The Snake’: a vi­cious and cun­ning mob­ster who be­trayed his com­rades to get ahead. He ranks in the up­per ech­e­lon of Amer­i­can mob bosses in the late

20th cen­tury and be­yond. The legacy he’s built for him­self in un­der­world cir­cles is mas­sive. To be able to keep power for that long from in­side prison shows the re­spect he and his fam­ily com­mand on the street. When Per­sico dies, so too will the days of the real Amer­i­can Mafia.

Just A Kid From Brook­lyn

“His rise in the crim­i­nal un­der­world had a very atyp­i­cal ori­gin,” Chris­tian Cipollini, the au­thor of Mur­der Inc.: Mys­ter­ies Of The Mob’s Most Deadly Hit Squad told Real Crime. “Per­sico’s fam­ily had it pretty good. His youth didn’t bear the ear­marks of poverty. That said, Per­sico grew up in an era where le­git business folks had noth­ing on the ‘ re­spect’ that a lot of Brook­lyn kids may have sought and found in the wiseguys who ba­si­cally ran the show, so to speak.”

Per­sico, like many other kids from New York in the mid 20th cen­tury, looked at the mob­sters with a gleam in their eyes. To the Brook­lyn kids the mob­sters were the rock stars of their neigh­bour­hood. They rep­re­sented a way of life that de­fied the law and did things their own way. Per­sico came up through the streets at a young age. He was a hot- headed, tough lit­tle guy who dropped out of school and joined a lo­cal gang, the ‘ Garfield Boys’, where he made his mark while still just a teenager, up­ping the ante when he al­legedly killed a ri­val dur­ing a brawl.

“In 1950, Carmine’s Garfield Boys had a rum­ble with the ‘ Tigers’ in front of the boathouse in Prospect Park – a fight over a girl, just like in West Side Story,” Michael Ben­son, co- au­thor of Carmine The Snake: Carmine Per­sico And His Mur­der­ous Mafia Fam­ily said. “When it was over, one Tiger was dead with bul­lets in his guts and another writhed on the ground clutch­ing stab wounds. No one re­mem­bers a time when Carmine wasn’t a gang­ster. In grade school he shook down kids for their lunch money. He was the kid who, for a price, promised to watch the car for you, so noth­ing bad could hap­pen to it while you were away.”

The street brawl in­ci­dent earned Per­sico ma­jor street cred­i­bil­ity, par­tic­u­larly piquing the in­ter­est of a Pro­faci fam­ily capo. From there on Per­sico moved up the ranks as a good earner and, when needed, some­one who could bring the mus­cle. By the time he turned 20, he’d al­ready been ar­rested for mur­der twice. When he was old enough he started work­ing his way into the Pro­faci fam­ily, who were con­trol­ling the Red Hook area of Brook­lyn. With a rep­u­ta­tion as a tough guy, Per­sico found his tal­ents in high de­mand.

“That’s how he got started. Him and his brother, ‘ Al­lie Boy’, started mov­ing up the lad­der.” Frank Dimatteo, who co- wrote Carmine The Snake: Carmine Per­sico And His Mur­der­ous Mafia Fam­ily, said. Dimatteo was a Mafia as­so­ciate him­self dur­ing this era. Per­sico was a gang­ster’s gang­ster – a man whose life served as the in­spi­ra­tion for not

The Colombo Wars and Prison Time

“Per­sico’s rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing mer­ci­less in his mob af­fairs goes back to the first Colombo Fam­ily War of the 1960s, where he earned his al­ter­nate nick­name, ‘ The Snake’, for his treach­ery,” said Scott Burn­stein, au­thor of Mafia Prince: In­side Amer­ica’s Most Vi­o­lent Crime Fam­ily And the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nos­tra. “His heavy lift­ing on the front lines in that con­flict got him bumped to a capo post, which put him in po­si­tion to take the boss’s chair in the years to come.”

His­tor­i­cally, Carmine and ‘ Crazy Joe’ Gallo came up in the streets to­gether. They were very close and in the same crew at one time. But Gallo and his broth­ers wanted to pull away from the Pro­facis be­cause they didn’t like Joe Pro­faci and didn’t think he was a good boss. They ac­cused Pro­faci of cheat­ing the rank and file out of a fair share of the fam­ily prof­its. The Gallo broth­ers were rene­gades, and when they were plot­ting and try­ing to get other cap­tains on their side to make this move to break away, Per­sico was with them.

“At one point, Pro­faci got to Carmine and of­fered him some­thing lu­cra­tive,” Dimatteo said. “Per­sico in­vited Larry Gallo to a meet­ing and Larry, not know­ing that Carmine al­ready had gone back with Joe Pro­faci, went to see him. When he ar­rived Per­sico tried to kill Larry. That’s when the first war started, and it started get­ting hot­ter and hot­ter after that.” Carmine’s old run­ning part­ner Larry would have been dead that day in 1961 at the Sa­hara Lounge in Brook­lyn if a beat cop hadn’t wan­dered in, won­der­ing why the door was open on a Sun­day morn­ing. This at­tempted bar­room hit be­came fod­der for a scene in The God­fa­ther.

After the at­tempted hit Per­sico was dubbed ‘ The Snake’ for switch­ing sides dur­ing the in­ter­nal mob war, which has

ev­ery word was de­signed to en­hance his own con­trol… Per­sico ac­quired power the way other men breathe

come to be known as the First Colombo War. This was the first of many times that Per­sico used de­cep­tion and dou­ble­cross­ing to make his move and climb the lad­der. In the Mafia treach­ery is re­warded – friends kill friends to be­come the top dog. Frank ‘ Punchy’ Il­liano, a Gen­ovese capo, was the one who branded Per­sico The Snake. Carmine Per­sico was go­ing to court with his men just as Punchy was com­ing out. They had a con­fronta­tion and Punchy told Per­sico, “You’re a fuck­ing snake.”

“That’s how it stuck.” Dimatteo said. “The Gal­los al­ways re­ferred to Carmine as The Snake. That’s how it started… After Pro­faci, Joe Colombo took over. He made peace in

1964 with the Gallo broth­ers. At the time Carmine was in jail for another short bid. Joe Colombo was the boss be­tween 1964 and 1972. Carmine was a skipper. His crew was very strong. They ran all of one side of South Brook­lyn and even in­ter­min­gled with the Gal­los at the time. The Gal­los, they were still part of the Pro­facis. The Pro­facis then turned into the Colom­bos.”

Even after the war the crews weren’t sep­a­rated. They were shy­lock­ing in the same neigh­bour­hood. Be­fore the shoot­ing started these gang­sters had clubs to­gether. Then, dur­ing the war, they had to hide be­cause they were shoot­ing at each other. After it was all over, they had to fig­ure out what to do. Who’s tak­ing the club? Who’s not tak­ing the club? Who’s tak­ing the num­bers? It wasn’t just one gang fight­ing another gang, it was an in­ter­nal bat­tle. After the shoot­ing stopped, ev­ery­body had to go back to­gether again.

“The men that shot each other were hid­ing from each other,” Dimatteo said. “A very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. Carmine had a strong crew. He had Hugh McIn­tosh, Gerry Lang, he had Scarpa. You get a deadly crew around you, it makes you look good. They all earned. When Joe Colombo got shot, Carmine was the fron­trun­ner. He was in line to take over. That’s why he be­came act­ing boss at the time, un­til the Com­mis­sion okayed it. That’s how Carmine got that po­si­tion. But he was in jail and had to leave Joseph ‘ Joe Yac’ Ya­cov­elli, who was un­der him, in charge.”

Crazy Joe Gallo was mak­ing his own bid for power, and when Gallo got out of prison in 1971 Per­sico put a hit on him. This started the Sec­ond Colombo War. Per­sico put out an open con­tract, mean­ing any­one could make the hit. He blamed Gallo for the Joe Colombo hit, in which Colombo was shot three times dur­ing a demon­stra­tion. And when Joe Gallo was ex­e­cuted, the Per­si­cos be­came kings of the Colombo hill. Carmine was act­ing boss at the time be­cause Joe Colombo was a veg­etable, hav­ing been left paral­ysed after the shoot­ing. Carmine Per­sico was in jail again, but Ya­cov­elli was again run­ning things for him in the streets.

“When there was a chal­lenge to his lead­er­ship with the Colom­bos, all- out war broke out,” Ben­son said. “Carmine loved wartime. He was al­ways on the win­ning side, even when he had to stab his so- called friends in the back to do it.”

The Com­mis­sion Trial

“The Per­si­cos were a large fam­ily with an omi­nous pres­ence within the Colom­bos,” said Larry McShane, au­thor of

Chin: The Life And Crimes Of Mafia Boss Vin­cent Gi­gante. “Carmine’s broth­ers Alphonse and Theodore joined the Pro­faci- led fam­ily while young, and a sec­ond gen­er­a­tion fol­lowed. The Per­si­cos took over fol­low­ing Joe Colombo’s shoot­ing. The Snake’s son ‘ Lit­tle Al­lie Boy’ be­came his voice… and another son, Michael, be­came a pow­er­ful fig­ure.”

But that power didn’t stop the law from con­tin­u­ing to con­vict Per­sico of crimes re­lat­ing to his Mafia lead­er­ship. In 1986 the Mafia Com­mis­sion Trial be­gan. Five mob chief­tains were in­dicted, as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and lead pros­e­cu­tor

when Gallo got out of prison in 1971 Per­sico put a hit on him. This started

the Sec­ond Colombo War

Rudy Gi­u­liani tried to take down the mob’s hi­er­ar­chy by go­ing after the bosses who resided on the ‘ Com­mis­sion’ – the rul­ing Mafia coun­cil. ‘ Big Paul’ Castel­lano, ‘ Fat Tony’ Salerno, Tony ‘ Ducks’ Co­rallo, ‘ Rusty’ Rastelli and Per­sico were all fac­ing time for be­ing the heads of New York’s Five Fam­i­lies.

At the trial Per­sico de­cided to rep­re­sent him­self. He had been through so many cases that he thought he was the best per­son to de­fend him. It was a big mis­take. “He’s a smart guy,” Dimatteo said. “He’s the one that looks for the money. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for at­tor­neys. He thought he was smart enough to do it him­self. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. Carmine just had the balls to do it. He thought they had noth­ing on him. He felt that it was all hearsay and bull­shit. He thought he was gonna win that. He put a good ar­gu­ment up, even the judge said he put a great ar­gu­ment up, but you ain’t gonna win against the feds.”

Rudy Gi­u­liani’s war on the mob stirred such a panic across New York’s Five Fam­i­lies that a meet­ing of the bosses was called, wherein the sug­ges­tion of hav­ing the zealot pros­e­cu­tor killed came up. “Three of the five bosses gave the idea a thumbs down,” Cipollini said. “But two oth­ers, John Gotti ( who came into power after killing Castel­lano) and Carmine Per­sico ar­gued for killing Gi­u­liani. Ma­jor­ity ruled, how­ever, and Rudy’s life was spared.”

Gi­u­liani hated the Mafia, and Per­sico in par­tic­u­lar, with a pas­sion. He wasn’t pulling any punches and was on a mis­sion to throw the book at Per­sico and the other Mafia lead­ers. Per­sico knew it was part of the game but has of­ten re­flected on Gi­u­liani. In prison he told Robert Rosso, a con­victed meth dealer do­ing life, “I’ve been in prison al­most 30 years and

I’m still mar­ried, I talk to my wife ev­ery night, she comes and sees me, and I have kids that I love and adore whom I’m close to. Gi­u­liani’s been mar­ried three times and his kids hate him so much they won’t even talk to him. Who’s the dog?”

Main­tain­ing Power

“His brother ‘ Al­lie Boy’, his son ‘ Lit­tle Al­lie Boy’, and his cousin ‘ Mush’ Russo have all been act­ing bosses for Ju­nior,” Burn­stein said. “Mush Russo has kept the fam­ily dy­nasty go­ing more re­cently. Lit­tle Al­lie Boy was con­victed in the

1999 mur­der of un­der­boss ‘ Wild Bill’ Cu­tolo, the last true threat to Per­sico mob regime.”

Per­sico wanted to do just one thing with his life: be the leader of a gang. His dream came true as a teenager as boss of the Garfield Boys, and his dream came true again when he be­came the boss of the Colombo crime fam­ily. And he wanted to keep that po­si­tion. “The rea­son Carmine stayed in power for as long as he did was be­cause he was smart,” Ben­son said. “Gang­sters wanted him in charge, even if he was be­hind bars. Carmine fucked up less than the rest of them, by a lot. After go­ing away for good, he used his most trusted men, guys he’d known since the Garfield Boys days, to courier in­for­ma­tion to and from his fed­eral pen­i­ten­tiary.”

Alphonse Lit­tle Al­lie Boy Per­sico was even­tu­ally his suc­ces­sor. The Snake could deal di­rectly with his son far more eas­ily. “He knew the best way to keep power from be­hind bars was by creat­ing a blood fam­ily dy­nasty that en­sured loy­alty,” Burn­stein said. “Em­power close rel­a­tives, his son, broth­ers, neph­ews, cousins, to run the show on your be­half. He’s as crafty and re­source­ful as any Amer­i­can mob boss of his era. Per­sico is a rare blend of in­tel­li­gence, charisma and lethal­ity, the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of rack­e­teer and mon­ster. It’s served him well in terms of be­ing able to keep his mob em­pire in­tact with­out hav­ing been on the street in three and a half decades.” But there were chal­lenges to his author­ity and this led to the Third Colombo War.

“This is the point where things went a bit hay­wire,” McShane said. “While The Snake was locked up, con­trol of

the fam­ily went to lit­tle Vic Orena, a highly re­garded guy who’d been in­volved with the fam­ily as a teen. He had two sons in the Colom­bos, and they were tight with the Per­si­cos. Orena took his seat with John Gotti and Chin Gi­gante. But The Snake pre­dictably turned on Orena, and the big­gest and blood­i­est war fol­lowed. Bod­ies piled up, turn­coats… came out. The fam­ily was dec­i­mated by bul­lets, de­fec­tions and tri­als, with close to 60 mem­bers im­pris­oned. The Colombo clan never re­cov­ered from the mess.” Per­sico was able to main­tain power for so long from be­hind bars be­cause the

ang­ster Carmine P er­sico has been a g since he w as a teen and w as ac­cused of mur­der a t just 17 above- Right Un­like John Gotti, Car­men Per­sico and his boys didn’t want their pic­tures in the pa­per. They were old- school mob­sters and didn’t seek fame or at­ten­tionbe­low When gang­sters start gun­ning for each other in­no­cents get caught in the cross­fire. This news­pa­per re­ports a vic­tim of the Colombo Wars

only West Side Story, but The God­fa­ther too. “He was cocky and blunt, an im­mov­able ob­ject, the guy who was in charge, his ev­ery word and ges­ture de­signed to en­hance his own wealth and con­trol,” Ben­son said. “Per­sico ac­quired power the way other men breathe.” When P er­sico w as withthe Garfield Boys the g ang hadvi­cious br awls with other street g angstha t of­ten re­sulted in mur­der

above Shootouts and car chases hap­pened fre­quently dur­ing the Colombo Wars, as the dif­fer­ent fac­tions of mob­sters tried to kill each other Dur­ing the Colombo W ars mur­der was the norm, as mob­ster turned on mob­ster

be­low Prose­cu­tors went after Carmine Per­sico with a pas­sion in the 1980s. He fi­nally re­ceived a to­tal of 139 years in prison

Im­pris­oned since 1986 ( 139 years) He lives and op­er­ates in south Florida. In De­cem­ber 2012, Farese was ac­quit­ted of all charges in a fed­eral in­dict­ment against himIm­pris­oned since 2000 ( life) The 100- year- old was re­cently re­leasedafter an eight- year sen­tence Cur­rently held at the Brook­lyn Met­ro­pol­i­tanDe­ten­tion Cen­ter left Carmine Per­sico pic­tured in 1986 dur­ing the Mafia Com­mis­sion Trial. He de­fended him­self dur­ing the trial but was ul­ti­mately found guilty. He is still serv­ing time in prisonServ­ing 63 months for ex­tor­tion In April 2014 DeLu­cia was sen­tencedto 34 months for ex­tor­tion Shacks is alive and well and liv­ing inLos An­ge­lesA capo op­er­at­ing in Brook­lynRe­leased from prison in 2011 for fraud, he has op­er­a­tions in Brook­lyn,Man­hat­tan and Staten Is­land In 2009, Uvino was sen­tenced to 10 years for run­ning il­le­gal card games and as­sault. He was re­leased in 2016 He was re­leased from prison on 27 Au­gust 2006 for il­le­gal gam­bling, loan­shark­ing and wit­ness tam­per­ing The Colombo Crime Fam­ily Ben­jamin ‘ The Claw’Castel­lazzoAct­ing- Un­der­bossSta­tus -Im­pris­onedCa­posDen­nis DeLu­ciaJohn ‘ Sonny’ FranzeseCarmine Per­sicoSta­tus -Sta­tus -Sta­tus -Sta­tus -Sta­tus -Sta­tus -Sta­tus -Sta­tus -Sta­tus -FreeUn­der­bossBossSta­tus -FreeSta­tus -Im­pris­oned Alphonse ‘ Al­lieBoy’ Per­sicoDo­minic ‘ Donnie Shacks’ Mon­temarano De­spite all the in­ter­nal wars the Colom­bos have main­tained their high- rank­ing fam­ily po­si­tionAct­ing BossAn­drew ‘ Andy Mush’ RussoFreeSta­tus -Im­pris­oned Thomas ‘ Tom Mix’ FareseStreet BossSta­tus -Im­pris­oned James ‘ Jimmy GreenEyes’ Cle­menzaCon­sigliereSta­tus -FreeFreeJoseph Bau­danzaFreeMichael UvinoFreeRalph ‘ Ral­phie’ Lom­bardoFreeRe­leased from prison in 2013 As of 2015, Gioeli was in­car­cer­ated in fed­eral prison with a pro­jected re­lease date of 9 Septem­ber 2024Theodore ‘ Teddy’ Per­sicoFreeThomas ‘ Tommy Shots’ GioeliIm­pris­onedWil­liam ‘ Billy’ RussoFree A capo and the youngest son ofAn­drew Russo

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