CHRISTMAS EVE MASS has just ended at St. Athanasius Church in the South Bronx. Three little girls in angel costumes and a trio of parishioners dressed as the three wise men stream outside into a cool mist blowing on Tiffany Street. Inside, the 80-year-old church is glowing in the warm light of hundreds of red and white candles. To the left of the altar, churchgoers gather around Father Louis Gigante and exchange holiday greetings.
For many families in the Hunts Point community, the 56-year-old Gigante is a saint. He has been credited with singlehandedly halting an urban death march by rescuing sections of the South Bronx from arsonists and abandonment. In the last 10 years, the South East Bronx Community Organization, a not-for-profit housing group founded by the Catholic priest and politician, has developed almost 2000 new or renovated housing units for low-income families in the area and hundreds more are in the works. Gigante and SEBCO — of which he is president and chairman — have helped resurrect a neighborhood where garbage-strewn lots once stood.
As Gigante later guides his gray Cadillac down Southern Boulevard and out of the South Bronx, his parishioners return to the housing projects that surround St. Athanasius. While the priest, known to all as “Father G.,” once was a fixture at the church, these days church members usually see Gigante only on the Sundays he says mass. He spends less and less time at St. Athanasius and, in fact, no longer lives in its rectory. It is unclear where Gigante actually resides, but neighbors say he does not live in either of the Manhattan apartments he owns, and his upstate home is almost a four-hour drive from the Bronx. Where once the streets of the South Bronx were Gigante’s backyard, they now seem to interest him purely in terms of their profit potential. The housing built for his hard-pressed Latino parish may be Gigante’s public legacy, but it is not the selfless contribution of a saint.
A four-month Voice investigation of Gigante and SEBCO has revealed that the priest and his publicly financed developments have been a $50 million opportunity for the Mafia. The homes that Gigante’s parishioners live in — senior citizen projects, one- and two-family houses, large and small apartment buildings — have been built, to a large extent, by companies owned by or affiliated with top-ranking members of the Genovese organized crime family. For years, Gigante has been close to the leadership of the crime syndicate, a relationship that has a distinctly personal side to it: the Genovese gang includes Father Gigante’s brothers Mario and Ralph, and is now run by the priest’s eccentric older brother, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante.
In the course of the investigation, the Voice examined thousands of documents concerning SEBCO from city, state, and federal agencies and conducted interviews with numerous law enforcement officials, public officials, and friends of the priest. Other documents obtained by the Voice revealed that in addition to contracts for SEBCO developments, mob-connected contractors have received more than $80 million in other city, state, and federal contracts over the past six years.
At the same time that Father Gigante’s operations have been profiting these mob-tied construction companies, the priest has enriched himself. Gigante’s business transactions appear to be laced with instances of fraud, conflict of interest, misrepresentation, and misuse of public funds. SEBCO has been used to make him a wealthy man.
These revelations about Gigante and SEBCO come at a time when Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau and the state’s Organized Crime Task Force, headed by Ronald Goldstock, are in the midst of a broad investigation into labor racketeering in the construction industry. The probe, which has already resulted in the indictment of Gambino boss John Gotti, is also targeting three of Father Gigante’s close associates, including his chief assistant.
Father Gigante’s considerable sway over construction in the Bronx, an industry long controlled by the Genovese syndicate, first came to the attention of prosecutors by way of wiretapped phone conversations. Building contractors have been overheard discussing Bronx construction projects — which have nothing to do with SEBCO — that still “have to be cleared by Father.”
Gigante declined to be interviewed for his story, stating, “There’s no reason to talk to you. I don’t deem it important to talk to you about SEBCO.” While he has ever denied his personal relationships with Mafia figures — he has attended their birthday parties and conducted their funeral masses — Gigante has said on numerous occasions that he is not “involved” with organized crime. The priest has claimed that his brothers are not Mafia members, that his family has been persecuted by law enforcement officials because of an “Italian stereotype,” and that, in fact, the Mafia does not actually exist. While his three brothers are listed on FBI intelligence reports as Genovese members, Father Gigante is not considered to be a member or an “associate” of the Genovese organization or, for that matter, of any of the city’s four other crime families.
While the specter of organized crime has hung over Louis Gigante for 30 years, it has never impeded his rise to power in New York. By force of will — and with a little help from his clerical collar — Gigante has been able to brush aside questions about his “connections.” He has been a player in city affairs since the late ’60s and probably now has more clout than at any other time in his career. A favorite with city and federal housing officials, the priest currently has about $70 million worth of construction projects in the pipeline for SEBCO. Cardinal John O’Connor refers to him as the Catholic Church’s “master builder,” and city politicians — including Ed Koch and other prominent figures — have sought his advice and support.
THE PRIEST AND THE HOOD
GROWING UP on the lower West Side, Louis and Vincent Gigante, from early on, took different career tracks.
The Gigante boys’ parents immigrated in 1921. Salvatore worked as a watchmaker and Yolanda sewed garments in a factory, often taking home work at night. The couple, like many other Italian immigrants in lower Manhattan, had to raise their children in the midst of organized crime. But Salvatore Gigante made it a point to steer clear of the amico nostra. The same, however, could not be said for Vincent and two other sons.
Of the five Gigante boys, Louis, the youngest, was the star. A good student, he first made his mark playing basketball, beginning at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx and then at Georgetown University, which he attended on an athletic scholarship. Though known for his tenacious defense, Louis had a good outside shot and once scored 24 points against George Washington University. After graduation, Gigante entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. He was ordained a priest in 1959 at the age of 27.
While Louis Gigante was excelling on the court, Vincent Gigante was often in one: His arrest record dates back to his teens. Vincent’s sport of choice was boxing. His manager was Thomas (Tommy Ryan) Eboli, a well-known local hoodlum. Though not a bad puncher, Vincent didn’t have his little brother’s defensive prowess — he had a glass jaw, which, the legend goes, earned him the nickname “The Chin.” (Years later, after Eboli was rubbed out on a Brooklyn street in 1972, Chin Gigante immediately took over Eboli’s vast bookmaking operations. Father Gigante performed the mobster’s funeral mass.)
Vincent was best known in the mid-’50s as the bodyguard and chauffeur for then-rising mafioso Vito Genovese. Chin Gigante first made headlines in 1957, when he was arrested for the shooting of underworld boss Frank Costello. Gigante, then 29, was eventually acquitted of attempted murder charges after Costello refused to identify his assailant. (Costello did, however, heed the warning and step aside, allowing Genovese to replace him on the Mafia’s ruling “commission.” Later that year, Genovese consolidated power and became “boss of all bosses” by ordering the barbershop rubout of Albert Anastasia, chief executioner for Murder, Inc.)
In 1960, both Chin Gigante and Genovese were sent to prison following their convictions on narcotics conspiracy charges. At this time, police records listed two other Gigante brothers, Mario and Ralph, as Genovese crime family members who were suspected of involvement in illegal gambling and loan-sharking activities.
After being ordained, Louis Gigante was assigned to a parish in Puerto Rico, where he lived for two years — and learned to speak Spanish — before moving into St. James Church on the Lower East Side. It was at St. James that Gigante earned the reputation of a “ghetto priest.” A World Telegram headline once exclaimed that his “Good Works Atone for Brother Who Went Wrong.” Father Gigante’s image as a hard-knocks priest — like the film heroes played by Pat O’Brien — began to appear in the papers: the Journal American reported in 1961 that Louis single-handedly prevented a rumble between 200 “wild-eyed youths who seemed eager for combat” outside the Catherine Street projects.
In 1962, Louis Gigante was assigned to St. Athanasius Church in Hunts Point, a crumbling South Bronx neighborhood. It was the deterioration that brought Gigante into Bronx politics, primarily through the fight for funding of various antipoverty programs. His main opponent was Ramon Velez, whom he once labeled a “poverty pimp” and “community eater.”
The priest lost his first bid for elective office in 1970, when Herman Badillo beat him, Velez, and Peter Vallone, for the seat in the 21st Congressional District. Gigante’s election-day poll watchers included the sister and the son of Mafia boss Joe Colombo, whom the priest knew through his involvement with the Italian American Civil Rights League. Minutes after Colombo was shot during a 1971 league rally at Columbus Circle, Gigante calmed the crowd and began leading it in prayer.
In 1973, Father Gigante ran for City Council and scored a 107-vote victory over William Del Toro. But except for his surprising support of the gay rights bill, Gigante’s four years on the council were undistinguished. While the priest never enjoyed the legislative end of politics, he loved the clubhouse aspect of it: patronage, brokering deals, and making judges. At a Harvard University lecture he once revealed his goal: “I’m in politics to become a political boss, and I want to be a boss to get the power.”
Father Gigante closed out his council term in 1977. Not long after, he served a week in the Queens House of Detention for refusing to answer grand jury questions about conversations he had with Genovese soldier James “Jimmy Nap” Napoli back in 1974 while the mobster was imprisoned at Rikers. Prosecutors believed that Gigante was either trying to use his political pull to get the gambling kingpin special privileges or that he may have been carrying messages for Napoli. Gigante cited his “priest’s privilege” not to repeat the private conversations.
Upon his release from jail, Father Gigante told supporters that his family was not involved in organized crime and that the Mafia did not exist.
Soon after, Gigante began his new career as a developer of low-income housing. The priest’s new power base — with its attendant discretionary power over millions of dollars in construction contracts — would bring him even closer to the Genovese hierarchy and his brother Vincent, whom he was even then describing as “mentally incompetent.”
LIKE HIS BROTHER THE PRIEST, Chin Gigante may now be at the height of his power.
Chin Gigante, 60, goes to work each day at the Triangle Social Club at 208 Sullivan Street. It is from this storefront, and another at 229 Sullivan, that, law enforcement officials say, Gigante directs the operations of the Genovese family.
Gigante became head of the crime syndicate, according to police and FBI records, after Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, the previous boss, was convicted in 1986 on federal racketeering charges. Until that time, Gigante was listed as the family’s “underboss,” though a former Genovese soldier has recently testified that Gigante actually became boss in 1981, after Salerno suffered a stroke.
Gigante gives the impression that he is crazy. Two weeks ago, with the temperature at 35 degrees, Gigante, accompanied by two bodyguards, was seen walking on Sullivan Street in a royal blue hooded bathrobe and striped pajama pants. Once, when Gigante was sought for questioning by the FBI, an agent found him hiding in the shower of his mother’s apartment. He was naked and standing under the running water. He was not wet, however: the umbrella he held over his head kept him dry. Intercepted conversations, some involving former Brooklyn boss Meade Esposito, also revealed that Genovese associates had a strange code name for Gigante. Whenever they wanted to talk about the Genovese boss without using his name, they referred to him as “Aunt Julia.”
While law enforcement sources believe Gigante does have some mental problems — he enters an upstate sanatorium for “annual tune-ups” — they believe he acts nuts to raise doubts about his control of the family. Secret wiretaps have captured a lucid Gigante discussing family business with his associates. Despite his act, sources say, Gigante is in full control of the Genovese family and, as such, personally gets a cut of all activities of the brugad (see sidebar, “Is ‘Chin’ Sane?” below).
Chin Gigante lives in an $800,000 East Side townhouse with Olympia Esposito, his longtime companion, and three of his children. The Genovese boss, who some law enforcement officials believe is more powerful than John Gotti, does not share the Gambino boss’s flair: Gigante will not be seen wearing white linen raincoats or drinking at P. J. Clarke’s. He does not eat in restaurants, and his principal clothing accessory — besides his bathrobe — is the ratty fisherman’s cap he wears shading a face battered by boxing. He will never be mistaken for the “Dapper Don.”
In fact, there is no love lost between the country’s two most powerful mobsters: Louis “Bobby” Manna (a/k/a “The Thin Man”), Gigante’s consigliere, is under indictment in New Jersey for conspiring to murder Gotti and his brother Gene, a Gambino captain. Law enforcement sources say that a planned hit on the Gotti brothers could never happen without Gigante’s approval, but prosecutors have been unable to develop evidence to link the Genovese boss to the murder conspiracy.
More importantly, what distinguishes Gigante from Gotti and the chiefs of the other three city crime families is that, since becoming a power in the Genovese organization, Gigante has been able to escape any Mafia-connected criminal prosecution.
Gigante usually avoids telephone conversations — they might be bugged — and carries out business from behind a layer of crime family members. He has successfully insulated himself from direct involvement in the family’s criminal enterprises, principally by limiting his conversations to only a few associates close to him. These talks never occur inside the Triangle, where a sign warns, “Don’t talk in here. The FBI is listening to you.” Chin Gigante’s important conversations are saved for walks around the same Greenwich Village streets where he and his brother Louis were raised.
SEBCO AND THE WISEGUYS
LABOR RACKETEERING has been described by one law enforcement official as “graduate school” for Mafia members. While most low-level Genovese family members are involved in mob staples like hijacking, loan-sharking, gambling, and prostitution, the control of labor unions and construction companies has usually been the province of the Genovese hierarchy. This is mainly because of the complexity of some deals, as well as the enormous profit potential of these enterprises.
The high-profit stakes were never better revealed than in testimony and evidence introduced during a federal racketeering trial last year, which showed that Genovese leaders masterminded a scheme to rig bids on every city concrete contract worth more than $2 million. Through kickbacks and hidden interests in concrete companies, family leaders made millions in a scheme that involved the fixing of more than $130 million worth of these contracts. Investigators believe that the crime family has also operated similar “clubs” in various other ends of the construction industry.
Thanks to its control of unions dealing with plasterers, laborers, truckers, carpenters, and other workers, the Genovese gang has often been able to dictate which construction companies will get certain jobs. “Our real power, our real strength, came from the unions,” former Genovese soldier Vincent “Fish” Cafaro testified last year. “With the unions behind us, we could make or break the construction industry … ”
SENATOR SAM NUNN: What about subcontractors?
VINCENT CAFARO: Well, now there’s some contractors is usually around wiseguys, so you get the plumber, he is looking fo the job …
NUNN: So the wiseguy helps control the subcontractor?
CAFARO: Yes. Yes.
NUNN: In other words they help the contractor get the job?
CAFARO: Then there is a subcontractor — if you got, let us say a plumber with you, or an electrician, or a carpenter, or the drywalls, you go to the contractor, you tell him, listen, give him this job, whatever. And that is how you get him.
NUNN: Do the wiseguys get money back from the subcontractor by helping them get the job?
CAFARO: Yes. Yes.
NUNN: So basically they are controlling everything from one end to the other.
CAFARO: Top to bottom.
NUNN: Top to bottom?
— Cafaro’s testimony before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on investigations, chaired by Senator Sam Nunn, April 29, 1988.
SEBCO’S SILENT PARTNER
TOP TO BOTTOM, SEBCO developments show the hand of the Genovese crime family. Under Father Gigante’s leadership, SEBCO has permitted organized crime onto jobs, from the demolition of rotting tenements to the construction of walls to the installation and maintenance of elevators. At the center of the mob’s decade-long involvement with Father Gigante is Vincent DiNapoli, the Genovese family’s construction specialist, who has, for years, directed a network of construction companies and businessmen tied to the mob. DiNapoli, who is now imprisoned, and Steven Crea, his protege and heir apparent, have been pivotal in the syndicate’s relationship with Father Gigante and SEBCO since 1979, when it first became deeply involved in low-income housing construction.
Vincent DiNapoli, 51, is an accomplished fixer and a three-time felon. He was sentenced last year to 24 years in jail for his role in the concrete conspiracy. Though a prior conviction should have barred DiNapoli from receiving municipal contracts, two drywall companies that state investigators say are controlled by the mobster have secured more than $16 million worth of SEBCO contracts, as well as more than $60-million in municipal contracts since 1980.
The two firms — Inner City Drywall and Cambridge Drywall — were both founded by DiNapoli in 1978. Though he had no prior experience in drywall — the construction of interior walls in buildings — DiNapoli’s companies secured more than $25 million in federally financed contracts during their first three years in business. Most of these contracts were on projects financed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
SEBCO has provided Cambridge with more than $6 million in drywall and carpentry work since 1980, records reviewed by the Voice reveal. The firm has also received contracts worth more than $15 million from other governmental agencies — including the New York City Housing Authority and the federally financed Newport City development in New Jersey. Investigators believe that DiNapoli’s stature in the Genovese family allowed him to get most of these lucrative contracts — including the SEBCO jobs — without any competitive bidding. Inner City and Cambridge came onto jobs as subcontractors. Normally developers hire a “general contractor” to manage the construction site and to hire subcontractors — the building trade’s specialists — who handle various facets of the construction project, from pouring concrete foundations to planting trees. At the city, state, and federal levels, general contractors doing government work are routinely subjected to nominal background checks, but subcontractors rarely are scrutinized. In fact, many of the governmental agencies contacted by the Voice have no idea which subcontractors — the companies actually building publicly financed projects — are working, or have worked, for them.
Following DiNapoli’s 1981 indictment, HUD officials placed him and his firms on what the agency calls its “debarment” list (see sidebar, “Federal Fraud”). But Cambridge and Inner City were removed from the list of ineligible contractors only a few months later when DiNapoli presented documents showing that he had apparently sold his shares in the firms. Since their reinstatement, Inner City and Cambridge have each received dozens of federal housing and other municipal contracts, including every major SEBCO drywall contract during the last eight years. Drywall work is usually the largest subcontract awarded in rehabilitation projects. A report released by the state Organized Crime Task Force in 1988 concluded that DiNapoli “has long controlled” the two firms. The Voice has also developed information that DiNapoli never divested himself of the drywall business.
In the midst of his 18-month racketeering trial, DiNapoli held meetings in bis Pelham Manor home regarding construction business, according to law enforcement sources. In fact, one of these meetings was taking place when the Voice visited DiNapoli’s home in November 1987. Automobiles in the driveway were registered to a Manhattan plasterers local; Bronx union boss and Genovese associate Louis Moscatiello; and attorney Vincent Velella, the father of State Senator Guy Velella.
Until last summer, Cambridge Drywall operated out of a storefront at 2242 First Avenue, a building owned by Vincent “Fish” Cafaro; FBI surveillance has shown that various members of the Genovese family regularly used Cambridge’s office as a meeting place. The firm has also operated from 2368 Westchester Avenue in the Bronx, a building owned by DiNapoli and three associates. In addition, city records reveal that Cambridge has owned a pair of private homes on Kenilworth Place in the Bronx that have been the residences of Cafaro and Carmine Della Cava, another powerful Genovese soldier.
HUD records indicate that DiNapoli’s interest in Cambridge was reportedly bought out by Larry Wecker for $900,000 in May 1981. An affidavit signed by Wecker in June 1981 states DiNapoli “maintains no control and exercises no influence” over the firm. The sale was not an arms-length transaction, however. FBI sources say that Wecker, 48, is considered an “associate” of the Genovese family and that he regularly visited DiNapoli at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. The subcontractor and his wife live in an East Side co-op and own a $400,000 home on the edge of a golf course in Plantation, Florida. Wecker did not respond to a dozen messages left with his answering service.
SEBCO also gave over $1 million in subcontracts to another company linked to DiNapoli, Three Star Drywall. The company’s owner, Arthur Felcon, who has two criminal convictions, was a defense witness during DiNapoli’s 1982 trial. When pressed by prosecutors about DiNapoli’s role in the drywall industry, Felcon clammed up: “I don’t ask anybody who’s associated with anybody.” Felcon could not be reached for comment.
TRANSFER OF POWER
DINAPOLI’S LEGAL PROBLEMS over the past five years have made a rising star of Steven Crea, 41, a longtime DiNapoli friend and business partner, who is listed in FBI records as a “made” member of the Genovese family. Crea now plays an important role for the syndicate in various aspects of the construction industry, which, according to law enforcement sources, has gotten Crea closely involved with Father Gigante and the SEBCO developments.
Crea is described by investigators as a “money man.” He grew up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx surrounded by wiseguys, and now lives in a sprawling home just across the street from DiNapoli. Crea is the godfather of DiNapoli’s daughter Deborah, and he arranged her engagement and wedding parties while her father was in prison.
Following DiNapoli’s jailing in 1983, FBI records reveal, Crea was designated by Chin Gigante to “assume Vincent DiNapoli’s former role” in the construction “rehab” industry. Federal prison records show that Crea visited DiNapoli more than 35 times in the first 16 months of DiNapoli’s incarceration in Danbury, and investigators believe that these meetings concerned the duo’s joint real estate and construction investments.
Crea’s federal tax returns from 1979 to 1983 reveal that he drew salaries each year from both DiNapoli drywall firms: Cambridge — a total of $170,000 from ’79 to ’83 — and Inner City — $86,468 in 1982 and $67,032 in 1983. According to federal prosecutors, Crea is believed to still own stock in both firms, though Cambridge recently went bankrupt, with creditors claiming more than $4.5 million in unpaid debts.
Vincent DiNapoli reported selling his 40 per cent interest in Inner City Drywall in April 1981, according to an affidavit signed by Antonio Rodrigues, the company’s president. But as with Cambridge Drywall and Larry Wecker, investigators say, DiNapoli’s influence over Inner City and Rodrigues has never really abated. Rodrigues did not return Voice calls to his New Rochelle office.
The ongoing relationship between DiNapoli and Inner City is apparent in some of their real estate transactions and other business dealings. Though Inner City is headquartered in New Rochelle, the firm often conducts business out of a DiNapoli-owned storefront at 1237 Castle Hill Avenue in the Bronx. The site is also home to the DiNapoli printing and waste-hauling businesses. In April 1985, Inner City gave a real estate company owned by Vincent DiNapoli and Crea a $450,000 mortgage on a Bronx property that was purchased three years earlier for only $15,000. And last July, Inner City transferred ownership of a 1976 white Cadillac Eldorado to Crea’s 17-year-old son.
Father Gigante too can be counted among Steven Crea’s business associates and personal friends. In 1985, after Crea was convicted of conspiracy in connection with a plot to kill a Bronx man who Crea believed had assaulted his wife, Father Gigante wrote a personal appeal for leniency to the sentencing judge, calling Crea a “special friend” who once helped him fight the “onslaughts of crime and housing deterioration” in the South Bronx. (Crea’s conviction was overturned in 1987.) A 1982 FBI affidavit stated that Gigante’s crime-fighting friend was suspected of “loansharking, gambling, and narcotics activities.”
Inner City has grown over the past 10 years into one of the metropolitan area’s chief drywall contractors, according to an industry source. The company and its subsidiaries have received more than $10 million in SEBCO contracts since 1980, and the firm has secured at least $40 million in other municipal contracts. This total includes a $19 million joint venture with developer Samuel Pompa for the New York City Housing Authority, as well as more than $10 million in current work with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. While some of the contracts were awarded on a low-bid basis, many others are were subcontracts that involved no competitive bidding.
But Steven Crea’s new clout in the Genovese gang and SEBCO-tied construction has a downside: he has recently come under intense scrutiny by state and federal law enforcement agencies.
CLOSE TO HOME
PART OF THE Morgenthau-Goldstock probe, according to investigative sources, is focusing on Crea; Mario Tolisano, Father Gigante’s right-hand man at SEBCO; and union leader Louis Moscatiello, in connection with various labor racketeering offenses. As part of the probe, prosecutors have subpoenaed SEBCO’s financial records for the past three years. A special 11-month grand jury has been empaneled, and indictments are expected within the next few months.
Sources have told the Voice that the investigation, which has involved the extensive use of wiretaps, has centered, in part, on Tolisano’s role as the link between a “club” of contractors and Moscatiello, in the “covering” of construction jobs. This process, once a Vincent DiNapoli specialty, results in contractors being allowed to illegally hire cheaper, nonunion laborers for projects that are supposed to “go union.”
Tolisano is a protege of Father Gigante, and over the last 10 years the 39-year-old has been instrumental in planning and developing every SEBCO housing project. Tolisano last year ran his friend Philip Foglia’s unsuccessful campaign for Bronx district attorney, an effort partially financed by SEBCO contractors and supported by Father Gigante (see sidebar, “Pols and the Mob”). Foglia’s father, a former police detective, has been head of SEBCO’s security division since 1981.
The Voice spoke briefly with Tolisano last month and gave him an outline of areas to be discussed in an interview. Tolisano said that he would confer with Father Gigante and call back, but never did so. Ten subsequent calls placed to Tolisano’s office also went unreturned.
In addition, investigators are examining Moscatiello’s role as a “broker” between this club of contractors and officials from other unions. As president of Local 530 of the plasterers union, Moscatiello, 51, was paid $64,000 in 1987. He is very close to Vincent DiNapoli and Father Gigante, both of whom supported his unsuccessful 1982 bid for City Council. Father Gigante has referred to Moscatiello as “the most honest man I know.” According to labor investigators, Local 530 was formed with DiNapoli’s assistance and has served as a “sweetheart” local for contractors, paying workers less and offering fewer benefits.
[In addition to Gigante and Tolisano, the Voice attempted to question four other SEBCO officials. Father William Smith, SEBCO’s secretary and a 10-year board member, declined to be interviewed, claiming, “I stopped giving interviews in 1971.” Board member Vincent Molinari also refused to talk to the Voice. The other board members, who share a Manhattan apartment, did not respond to messages left at their residence.]
FOR “THE BOYS”
THE 1982 LABOR RACKETEERING CASE involving Father Gigante’s friend Vincent DiNapoli exposed some of the inner workings of the subcontracting underworld. In this instance, DiNapoli and Theodore Maritas, then president of the District Council of Carpenters, conspired to rig a bid for Petina Associates — a longtime major contractor for SEBCO and the New York City Housing Authority, with more than $35 million in municipal contracts. In addition, one of the firms that prosecutors charged had conspired with DiNapoli and Maritas to submit inflated bids was controlled by builder Sidney Silverstein, who is currently handling more than $22 million in SEBCO jobs and $30 million in other city housing projects.
After his first trial ended in a hung jury in 1982, Vincent DiNapoli pleaded guilty to labor racketeering charges in Brooklyn federal court. One of the specific counts of the indictment for which DiNapoli admitted guilt involved an amazing shakedown of a small building contractor. The outline of the conspiracy was secretly recorded and videotaped by the FBI in Maritas’s Manhattan office.
On the tape, Maritas and DiNapoli explained to the contractor that he had stumbled into their plan to fix a $5.5 million contract for Petina to perform renovations on a group of Chelsea brownstones. Maritas told the small businessman that he and DiNapoli had “set up” the owner of the brownstones with inflated bids so that “a certain guy got the job.” Maritas then explained to the contractor that “everybody had been in on it, and you come along, innocently, okay, and come in a million less than the low bidder … You’re in the middle of a big ball game, my friend.” Maritas then added, “If you were just some guy we didn’t know … you would have problems. … We’d go for your eyeballs.”
DiNapoli chimed in that various “connected” individuals were involved in the scheme and that the job had been “registered.” DiNapoli eventually gave the contractor the choice of either taking $100,000 to get off the job or going back to the owner of the brownstones and requesting an additional $100,000 for “the boys.” But before the contractor returned with an answer, the undercover investigation was terminated, and charges were brought against Maritas, DiNapoli, and five others.
With the exception of Maritas, every defendant in the DiNapoli racketeering case pleaded guilty. Maritas’s first trial ended in a hung jury. But in March 1982, before he could be retried on the federal charges, the labor leader disappeared. Maritas’s wallet was later found floating near the Throgs Neck Bridge. Investigators believe he was the victim of a Genovese-sanctioned hit.
Petina Associates, the contractor who would have gotten the rigged bid, is controlled by Peter DeGennaro, a neighbor of Crea and DiNapoli in Pelham Manor. Since 1982, the firm has received $19.6 million in contracts from the New York City Housing Authority for the construction and rehabbing of public housing. The company has done more than $6 million worth of work for SEBCO over the past eight years. An additional $8 million has been earned by DeGennaro’s company from city agencies such as the Police Department and Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Father Gigante had lined up Petina to do a $7 million small-homes project in 1984, but when SEBCO encountered problems securing bank financing, DeGennaro was forced to back out of the deal.
Petina and Vincent DiNapoli have a real sweetheart association. DiNapoli was once so involved with Petina’s operations, records show, that he would personally pick up bid specifications for the company from general contractors. And up until last year, the DiNapoli family’s carting company shared a Bronx office with Petina Associates at 1821 Mahan Avenue. DeGennaro did not return Voice phone calls.
Deed records reveal that in April 1980 Petina Associates purchased a house at 1446 Roosevelt Place in Pelham Manor for $150,000. Eleven months later, Petina sold the home to DiNapoli’s wife, daughter, and mother-in-law for the bargain price of $126,000, which represents a $24,000 loss — an unusual Westchester County real estate deal. At the time of the sale to the DiNapolis, real estate records show, Petina gave the family a $99,065 mortgage, which carried a 6 per cent annual interest rate. The mortgage was another incredible gift, since prevailing rates at the time were 13.91 per cent, according to Federal Home Loan Bank Board records. The house, now occupied by DiNapoli’s daughter, is currently worth $700,000.
ONE OF THE SEBCO PALS implicated in the DiNapoli-Maritas case is currently Father Gigante’s developer of choice: Sidney Silverstein is now serving as general contractor on three current SEBCO projects. These development contracts are worth a total of $22 million, according to city records. Two of the contracts are for the construction of small homes ($10 million and $4 million), and the other project is an $8 million, 90-unit senior citizen development, cosponsored by St. Barnabus Hospital. In addition, Silverstein’s firm may also be in line to build SEBCO’s largest project to date, a $19.1 million small homes project. The project, dubbed St. Mary’s Park, will consist of 113 two-family homes on 144th and 145th streets, bounded by Willis and Brook avenues, south of SEBCO’s normal hub.
Since 1981, Silverstein has operated under the name Sparrow Construction, of which he is chairman. In addition to his work with HPD and HUD, Silverstein has also gotten contracts from the state Urban Development Corporation and the New York City Housing Authority — in spite of past investigations of his business dealings, including possible forgery in connection with a federally funded Brooklyn housing project.
Testimony in the DiNapoli-Maritas case revealed that Silverstein submitted an inflated bid of $6.4 million in an attempt to help secure the contract — fixed for Petina Associates. In an outgrowth of the Maritas-DiNapoli case, Silverstein’s company and a host of other construction firms were targeted in 1983 by a joint FBI-IRS-Department of Labor probe investigating allegations of drywall bid-rigging. While two companies were eventually convicted of federal crimes, Silverstein and his firm were not charged.
In addition to his ties to DiNapoli, Silverstein also has a close association with Steven Crea, a relationship that investigators working on the Morgenthau-Goldstock probe are examining.
In a 1985 letter to Crea’s sentencing judge, a Bronx priest wrote about the mobster’s efforts to rehabilitate the Belmont section of the Bronx. “He has been instrumental personally and through the Sparrow Construction in rehabilitating more than 100 units of housing,” wrote Reverend Mario Zicarelli. When the Voice phoned the priest about the Crea letter, he said could not remember any details and hung up.
Asked during a Voice interview to describe his relationship with Crea, Silverstein initially responded, “Who is he?” But after the Voice told the developer that it had documents that linked Crea to Sparrow Construction, Silverstein admitted that he employs Crea as a “labor consultant” who “helps mainly with problems in the various communities and with the church groups. He takes care of whatever problems come up.” Asked what types of problems arose with “church groups,” Silverstein said: “At the moment I can’t really tell you.” When the Voice told Silverstein it had information that Crea was paid more than “six figures,” he responded, “Yes, that’s correct.” At that point, Silverstein said he did not want to answer any more questions and would consult with his attorney. He did not return subsequent calls.
SEBCO’S “TOP TO BOTTOM” subcontracting network once also included Curtis Lifts, Ltd., an elevator company that paid Crea $67,500 in 1983 according to his tax return for that year. The firm’s Bronx address — 3743 White Plains Road — also happened to be the offices of Sid Silverstein’s Sparrow Construction, but it is unclear who owned the company. (When asked about Curtis Lifts, Silverstein said he had “no comment.”) The company was apparently sold sometime in 1985 or 1986.
Curtis Lifts, nonetheless, was a large SEBCO subcontractor, with more than $5 million in contracts. The company, which was incorporated in 1980 by Crea’s attorney Paul Victor, stopped getting SEBCO contracts soon after it was sold to the Flynn-Hill elevator company.
While it may not be clear who was installing SEBCO’s elevators, it is clear what firm services many of them: Al-An Elevator Maintenance, which is owned by Vincent DiNapoli’s brother Anthony, and Allie Salerno, who prosecutors contend is the nephew of Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno. (Attorneys for the DiNapoli brothers have denied this charge, contending at Allie Salerno has never even met “Fat Tony.”) The firm’s contracts with SEBCO have totaled more than $250,000. Taped conversations introduced as evidence in DiNapoli’s last federal trial show that Vincent DiNapoli often tried to round up business for his brother’s company. Furthermore, Al-An operates out of a property owned by Vincent DiNapoli and Steven Crea.
IF SEBCO WANTS GARBAGE CARTED from a project site, it often turns to yet another DiNapoli family concern Crestwood Carting, which specializes in hauling construction debris. The firm has received about $1 million in SEBCO contracts — usually for taking away the remains of demolished tenements. Crestwood is currently doing work for SEBCO at a building project on Fox Street sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York.
City records show that the sole owner of Crestwood is DiNapoli family relative Joseph Brancaccio. The firm has recently employed both Louis and Vincent DiNapoli as well as their sister, who is the company’s bookkeeper. Federal prosecutors contend that Crestwood Carting was a direct beneficiary of the DiNapoli brothers’ concrete industry scheme, since the firm received carting contracts for many of the construction sites involved in the bid-rigging operation.
The carting industry has long been dominated by the Mafia. Genovese members like Louis DiNapoli — Vincent’s younger brother — and Matthew “Matty the Horse” Ianniello have held financial interests in a number of carting firms.
RALPH ARRED, THE CHAIRMAN of the Yonkers Democratic Party, can often be seen holding court at a back table in Pagliaccio’s restaurant on Bronx River Road in Yonkers. Arred, a Cuban immigrant who shortened his name from Arredondo, grew up with Steve Crea and remains very close to him. And he too has a spot at the SEBCO trough.
Arred owns an electrical contracting company that has received $10 million in SEBCO contracts in addition to $20 million from governmental agencies. The Yonkers political boss has received numerous SEBCO contracts over the past three years despite the fact that his firm declared bankruptcy in early 1986 and is currently “on the verge of collapsing,” according to an attorney representing its creditors.
Arred is “of great interest” says one source on the Morgenthau-Goldstock team, but the pol is not currently a target of the investigation. A state law enforcement source, however, told the Voice that investigators from the United States Attorney’s Office in Manhattan have opened a separate probe of Arred. The Yonkers boss told the Voice that he was not surprised that he was being probed. “I’m a political leader, I expect it. But I don’t give a fuck. It’s not the first time that they’ve investigated me.”
According to state board of elections reports examined by the Voice, a main source of funds for Arred’s Yonkers Democratic Party has been organized crime. The party has received substantial campaign contributions from corporations owned or controlled by Crea and/or Vincent DiNapoli.
Arred operates his contracting firm out of a building at 4443 Third Avenue in the Bronx. He shares this warehouse space with other prime SEBCO subcontractors, Nicholas and Anthony Russo. (The brothers Russo are also close friends of Crea.) The Russo companies, which include a large metal contracting company and a painting business, have done a total of $8 million in business with SEBCO and have received additional municipal contracts totaling at least $12 million.
Until he sold it last October, Nicholas Russo was listed in State Liquor Authority records as the owner of Pagliaccio’s. According to a 1982 FBI affidavit, Crea had a “financial interest” in the Italian restaurant. The two-story building that houses the restaurant and Crea’s office is owned by a relative of Crea’s employed by him.
Like Arred, Nicholas Russo, 45, wrote to the judge on behalf of Crea in 1985. Stating that he had known him for 25 years, Russo referred to Crea as someone who “does not shy away” from helping his community, particularly senior citizens. Arred’s bankruptcy filings show that his firm owes $280,000 to Nicholas Russo, and the electrical contractor said he is negotiating with Russo for an additional $500,000 loan.
MEADE AND MARIO
WHEN CONTRACTS HAVE BEEN doled out, Father Gigante has not forgotten his friends in politics. Records show that SEBCO has given business to the law firm of Mario Biaggi and the insurance brokerage of Meade Esposito, another pair of felons. The priest is an old friend of Biaggi and Esposito (long tied to a number of Genovese family hoods), and once called the former Brooklyn Democratic boss, “one of the finest leaders in the country.” Federal housing records show that Esposito and Biaggi each pulled down more than $200,000 in fees from SEBCO developments.
Another Gigante crony earning money from SEBCO is Ely Colon, a former member of the not-for-profit’s board of directors. In his spare time, Colon serves as the principal broker for SEBCO’s purchase of couches, tables, chairs, and other furnishings. Colon told the Voice that he works full-time for HPD and operates his furniture company from his Bronx apartment. Individual SEBCO orders placed through Colon have totaled about $200,000 over the past two years. Colon said that SEBCO uses him to purchase furniture because “I have all the catalogs to order from.” Asked to provide a list of his clients, Colon struggled to come up with the name of one other customer.
NO VOW OF POVERTY
If You Can’t Trust Father Gigante, Who Can You Trust?
— A sign that hung for years on the side of the Bruckner Boulevard business headquarters of Genovese soldier William “Billy the Butcher” Masselli
THE VOICE’S INVESTIGATION showed that not only has “Father G.” been busy steering construction jobs to his mob pals, but he made money himself. As he is quick to point out, he never took a vow of poverty. While many of his parishioners live below the poverty line, records show that Gigante definitely does not. He owns two Manhattan co-ops and a home in upstate New York. The priest has also entertained friends in a swank San Juan condominium that he told them he owned. Gigante owns six automobiles and at least six pieces of Bronx real estate.
The priest once told a friend, “People may think I do this for free, but that’s their problem.” Gigante described himself last year as a “non-order” priest and, as such, says he does not have to adhere to the strict financial limitations of orders such as the Jesuits. SEBCO records reveal that the company paid the priest $85,576 in 1987, and, in ’88 paid him $44,088 for part-time work. But the Voice has found that Father Gigante was undoubtedly able to supplement his income thanks to a number of side ventures that are blatant conflicts of interest.
After a federally financed housing project is constructed, the only remaining source of continuing income comes from the management of the property. Gigante quickly realized this once he got in the business, and formed a management arm for SEBCO in 1979. Gigante, records show, now personally owns the real estate company, SEBCO Management, that provides those services to most of the SEBCO developments. According to financial records, the management company has a gross income of more than $450,000 annually. The board of directors of SEBCO — the parent company — which Gigante chairs, is responsible for picking which realty firms will manage its properties. It should come as no surprise that the priest’s company has gotten every SEBCO contract.
In fact, the management of SEBCO properties is so important to Gigante that he broke with his long-time principal developer, Jerome Chatzky, after the builder refused to turn over management of certain projects to the priest, sources said.
A second company, Tiffany Maintenance, provides services — from painting hallways to repairing roofs — for about 1000 SEBCO apartments. Tiffany does more than $200,000 a year in business with the SEBCO organization. The firm was incorporated in April 1985 and was listed as a personal asset of Gigante’s on a June 1986 city disclosure report. On subsequent report, filed in May 1987, it appears that the entry for Tiffany Maintenance had been whited out. A Gigante disclosure filed in June 1988 also fails to list Tiffany Maintenance as an asset. Who owns the firm today is unclear, but Tiffany continues to be headquartered in a SEBCO project on Southern Boulevard, and when nobody is in its office, the company’s phones are forwarded to SEBCO Management.
In various filings with city and federal housing agencies, SEBCO and Gigante have not been forthcoming about the priest’s insider trading. In the thousands of documents filed by SEBCO with the federal housing department, the group never discloses that SEBCO Management is owned by Father Gigante, and that, at the very least, Tiffany Maintenence has also been — and may still be — an asset of the priest’s. In applications filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1987 and 1988, SEBCO refers to itself as the “parent company” of SEBCO Management. SEBCO also refers to Tiffany Maintenance as its “affiliate.” Since Gigante did not change the management company’s name, it appears the firm is still owned by the not-for-profit simply because it still carries the “SEBCO” moniker.
Records indicate that SEBCO Management was sold to Gigante sometime in 1986 for roughly $75,000, with no money down. Since then, it appears, the priest has paid SEBCO $35,000 toward the full purchase price. SEBCO’s records do not explain how the $75,000 sales price was established, if there were other potential buyers, what the company’s market value was, and if the sale had SEBCO board approval. Documents filed with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal reveal that after SEBCO sold its management operation to Gigante, the group received a $60,000 state housing preservation contract that was earmarked, in part, to “market SEBCO Management” by preparing a brochure about the company, compiling a list of “potential clients,” and then sending the brochures out in a “bulk mailing.” This appears to be a misuse of state funds to enhance a private business.
Along with the various SEBCO projects, Gigante’s management company has branched out, securing contracts with three separate federally funded Bronx ousing projects. It is not known whether these contracts were secured as a result of SEBCO’s state-funded “marketing” effort.
An even more intriguing transaction involved a second company that was once owned by SEBCO, but which also found its way into Gigante’s private portfolio.
This firm, the SEBCO Housing Development Company, Inc., was formed in November 1982 and had its name changed to SEBCO Realty in February 1985. (Like the management firm, most city and federal housing officials continue to believe the company is owned by Gigante’s not-for-profit organization.) In a June 1986 city disclosure form, Gigante listed SEBCO Realty as an asset wholly owned by him. Nowhere in any SEBCO tax returns or financial documents is the sale of this asset fully explained with regard to market value, purchase price, or approval by SEBCO’s board of directors. This lack of disclosure is critical since the SEBCO Housing Development Company stood to profit from a lucrative 1985 housing development deal.
City records show that, initially, SEBCO (the parent company) was scheduled to receive a $593,750 fee for its role as cosponsor of a publicly financed project on Kelly Street. However, days before “closing” the deal, SEBCO informed city housing officials that it was being replaced as sponsor by the SEBCO Housing Development Corporation, which SEBCO described as a wholly owned subsidiary. While city officials were surprised at this last-minute switch, they nonetheless approved the project. The substitution, in effect, meant that the SEBCO subsidiary — and not the parent company — was now in line to receive the $593,750 sponsor’s fee.
According to a schedule of payments, the subsidiary was to get its share over five years, beginning with $91,250 in 1984 and followed with payments of $147,500 in 1985, $85,000 in 1986, and $90,000 in 1987, 1988, and 1989.
Using this formula, the firm — in its new incarnation as SEBCO Realty — had at least $270,000 in cash receivables when Gigante took it over. It is not known how much — if any — of the previously disbursed $323,750 in fees was on hand when Gigante got the company.
The only other assets that can be traced to the SEBCO Housing Development Company/SESCO Realty are four South Bronx buildings — with a combined total of 177 apartments — that were purchased from the city in January 1984 for $50,000 in unpaid bills. It seems that Gigante has been involved in more self-dealing: this time, he apparently has used city and state funds to spruce up the four buildings he owns.
Part of the $60,000 state housing preservation grant was earmarked for renovations to the four rent-stabilized buildings, though Gigante them himself. In addition, development fees earned by SEBCO itself in connection with the group’s sponsorship of two federal projects have recently been used to pay for new windows and doors, light fixtures, an intercom system, roof repairs, and paint jobs in the four buildings. City records list the work being done on properties ”currently owned and managed by SEBCO.” Department of Housing Preservation and Development records show the four rent-stabilized buildings have a total of 657 housing code violations.
Of course, SEBCO — the parent company — neither owns nor manages any of the four buildings. The “SEBCO” firm that manages the properties as well as the “SEBCO” company that holds title to the buildings are both privately owned by the priest. On a June 1988 city disclosure Gigante listed the four buildings as personal assets, a fact that has escaped city housing officials.
FATHER G’S HIDEAWAY
WHILE GIGANTE’S BUSINESS DEALINGS may be tainted, his recent action on behalf of a convicted Genovese associate is a true illustration of the priest’s character.
Morris Levy, the president of Roulette Records, has been a long-time source of ready cash for the Genovese family, particularly Chin Gigante and his live-in companion, Olympia Esposito. According to a 1985 FBI affidavit, Levy money was also “funnelled” to Father Gigante in the form of a gift of a piece of upstate property and a low-interest mortgage.
The property, located on the edge of Levy’s sprawling horse farm in the town of Ghent, was given to Father Gigante in August 1979 with an accompanying $32,000 mortgage at 5 per cent interest. At the time, prevailing rates were between 10 and 11 per cent. In addition to the house loan, records show that Levy also gave the priest a $15,000 “business loan” in 1981.
When the Voice first tried to question Gigante about the 1979 transaction in April 1988 (when the FBI affidavit was made public), he did not return phone calls. He finally told his tale just before Levy was sentenced last year on federal extortion charges.
On September 20, 1988, Gigante wrote to Stanley Brotman, the federal judge sentencing Levy, and termed the FBI’s account of the house deal “a bold lie” Gigante claimed that Levy actually donated the land to Gigante so that the pair could build a home for one of the priest’s former secretaries.
In his letter, Gigante explained that he uses a “large part” of his earnings “to take care of my dear friend and loyal assistant” Erma Cava. The priest’s former secretary, 55, who is partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, has had a SEBCO senior citizens project named after her, Gigante went on to state that since 1980, Cava “has been living full-time at the farm” and that there she is cared for by “another of my secretaries,” who Gigante claimed he also supports. The spacious ranch-style home, which sits on about an acre of land, features a sun room, two-car garage, and a backyard that slopes down to a large pond.
“Morris and I visit frequently and I often bring children from the parish to visit and spend time in the country. Erma is still paralyzed on her right side, but we see continued improvement. She is even beginning to speak although she is aphasic,” Gigante wrote. He concluded: “I am not involved with organized crime and it is an insult to mischaracterize Morris’ kindnesses to me and others as the funneling of money to organized crime. I believe Morris’ greatest contribution was the idea to build a home for Erma … an unfortunate pe·rson who might have been forgotten without us.” While appearing heartfelt, Gigante’s letter borders on total fiction.
Not only is the deed, mortgage, and phone at the property in the name of Louis Gigante, when the Voice visited the home last year, two cars registered to the priest were in the driveway, but nobody was home. In addition, Department of Motor Vehicle records show that the priest currently registers his Cadillac from the Ghent address as well as three cars owned by his real estate management firm. When a neighbor was asked if he knew where the “Gigante house” was, he immediately pointed it out.
In addition, SEBCO records for 1986, 1987, and 1988 list Erma Cava’s home address as 520 Second Avenue in Manhattan. Cava’s address turns up on the SEBCO records because the woman, who Father Gigante described in his letter as brain-impaired and barely able to talk, sits on SEBCO’s five-person board of directors.
Cava lives with Migdalia Morales, a SEBCO board member and former Gigante secretary, in apartment 8-8 in the Phipps Houses development on Second Avenue in Manhattan. A fellow Phipps resident immediately recognized Cava’s name, said “she’s in a wheelchair,” and added that the woman has lived in the building for “at least eight years and maybe more.”
Though the priest claims to support her, Cava had enough pocket change to donate $1000 last March to the campaign of Phil Foglia, a Gigante-backed candidate for Bronx district attorney, according to Board of Elections campaign disclosure statements. These election records also list Cava’s address as 520 Second Avenue. Morales donated $1000 to Foglia on the same day; her address is also listed on election records as 520 Second Avenue, Apartment 8-B.
AT THE 9:30 A.M. MASS on Sunday, December 4, Father Gigante is at the altar at St. Athanasius talking about sin. The priest explains that if one is to be saved, one must acknowledge and take responsibility for his sins. He then decries the crime and violence in our society and how “we have allowed it to invade all our neighborhoods. We have accepted the violence. We have accepted the crime and the drugs. This violence against our people happens every day on the streets outside this very church.”
Since the days he studied at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Louis Gigante has also accepted crime and violence-and the men involved in these criminal attacks on the community. The priest’s relationship with the mob is not innuendo: it clearly has been one of long-time cooperation with hoodlums.
Father Louis Gigante is not just a troubling anomaly. More than any prosecutor or parolee in this city, the priest sits at the crossroad of good and evil, happy to live off both sides of the street. ❖
IS CHIN SANE?
FATHER LOUIS GIGANTE recently began legal proceedings to have a conservator appointed to handle the affairs of his brother, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, the Voice has learned. Legal papers state that the Genovese boss is “unable to manage his personal affairs by reason of mental illness.” The FBI, on the other hand, has long contended that Chin Gigante runs the crime family.
On February 16, the priest-represented by attorney Barry Slotnick’s law firm-requested that state supreme court judge Jacqueline Silberman name a conservator for his brother. Silberman told the Voice that she has appointed attorney Peter Wtlson to represent Chin Gigante lllld said the lawyer is to submit a report to her on March 14 regarding Gigante’s mental state. Silberman said the report which will address whether a conservator is warranted-will include interviews with Gigante’s doctor, Eugene D’Adamo.
In most cases, conservators are appointed for individuals-often elderly or mentally infirm-who cannot take care of their business and personal matters. While family members say that Chin Gigante is mentally ·ill, this action will be the first public review of those contentions. Law enforcement officials have previously voiced their concern that Gigante-given his bizarre behavior-might be able to easily mount an insanity defense if he were to face any future criminal charges.
Father Gigante’s legal maneuver comes at a time when Gambino boss John Gatti reportedly has put out a contract on Chin Gigante. The Daily News reported Monday that the FBI recently advised the priest and his brother Mario, a Genovese soldier, of the alleged Gambino plot. While security around Chin Gigante is tight on Sullivan Street, the Genovese boss appears to be guarded only by his chauffeur Vito Palmieri when he is picked up at his East Side home. — W.B. & EDWARD BORGES
POLS AND THE MOB
LOCAL POLITICIANS have been on the receiving end of campaign contributions from members of the Genovese crime family, campaign records show. Politicians and committees receiving mob money include:
DECEIVING THE FEDS
Vincent DiNapoli’s Two Dirty Deeds
FOLLOWING HIS INDICTMENT on labor racketeering charges in April 1981, Vincent DiNapoli was declared persona non grata by the federal housing department
Officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development placed the Genovese soldier on their list of ineligible contractors pending the resolution of charges brought against DiNapoli. A letter from the agency dated April 16, 1981, informed DiNapoli that he was “suspended from participation in HUD programs.” Following DiNapoli’s guilty plea in latr 1982, HUD issued a “final determination” barring DiNapoli-for an indefinite period of time-from any partic,pution with the housing agency. DiNapoli still is on HUD’s debarment. list.
This ruling, however, did not deter DiNapoli or Father Gigante.
The Voice has discovered that, in violation of federal regulations, DiNapoli secretly invested $305,000 in two HUD projects, including a $6 million SEBCO renovation. Both DiNapoli investments were in projects financed under “Section 8,'” a federal program popular with investors because of its lucrative tax shelter benefits.
Unbeknownst to HUD or city housing officials, DiNapoli-with Gigante·s help-secretly invested $110,000 in a real estate limited partnership that. was approved by HUD to renovate two rotting buildings on Faile Street in the South Bronx. As part of the HUD package, the federal agency guaranteed a $4.5 million mortgage granted to the limited partnership, Faile Street Associates.
When the housing project. called Aldus I, was being reviewed by HUD and the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Father Gigante’s organization submitted documents to both agencies listing SEBCO and the Renata Construction Company as 50-50 partners in the deal. Renata is owned by builder Samuel Pompa.
Following HUD and HPD background investigations, which include a check of federal debarment lists, as well as an examination of the project’s corporate papers, both housing agencies signed off on the deal. Shortly thereafter, the realty partnership received final authorization from HUD to begin renovation on 96 apartments.
It was at this time-with the project safely approved-that Gigante secretly brought Genovese family operatives into the deal, including Vincent and Joseph DiNapoli-two convicted felons-and their brother Louis. Joseph DiNapoli was convicted in 1974 of conspiracy to distribute heroin and was sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Other new partners investing $110,000 apiece included Genovese family member Steven Crea, and four executives of Inner City Drywall, a company tied to Crea and Vincent DiNapoli. The amendment effectively transferred control of the partnership-and ownership of the housing development itself-from SEBCO and Pompa to the DiNapoli crew.
Gigante surely knew that if either city or federal housing officials were apprised of the DiNapolis’ role in the Faile Street project, the renovation would never have been approved. And SEBCO would have lost more than $100,000 in sponsorship fees. In fact, while all 10 partnership agreements were signed and notarized in December 1982, Gigante and Pompa didn’t get around to actually filing the corporate amendment with the Bronx county clerk’s office until May 1984-eight months aft.er renovations were completed on the Faile Street properties.
The 1982 agreements with DiNapoli and the other new “limited” partners called for a $5000 payment up front, with the $105,000 balance to be paid over three years (1983, ’84, and ’85). In return, the new investors would each receive 9.9 per cent of the partnership’s profits. This percentage apparently was carefully calculated to avoid an HPD rule that requires sponsors to disclose the names of any individual holding 10 per cent or more of its stock. But dis• closure still should have been made since city rules also require family members holding stock in aggregate of 10 per cent to file disclosure forms. The DiNapoli brothers purchased 29.7 per cent of Faile Street Associates, which holds the deed to the two five-story buildings.
Marylea Byrd, an assistant counsel in HUD’s Washington office, told the Voice that DiNapoli’s debarment precluded, from the day of his suspension in April 1981, his being “involved in any way with a HUD deal. This includes being a subcontractor as well as being the recipient of a HUD-insured mortgage.” Byrd said that debarred individuals “are certainly not supposed to be limited partners in any HUD-in sured ventures.”
THE DRY RUN for DiNapoli’s Faile Street gambit apparently was the mobster”s July 1981 investment of $195,000 in a limited partnership developing a 50-unit HUD project on Saint Mark’s Avenue in Brooklyn. DiNapoli had already been suspended for three months when he purchased a 14.83 per cent interest in the project. As with Faile Street, the Brooklyn limited partnership-Rochester Associates-also received a multimillion mortgage guaranteed by HUD. And as with Faile Street, city and federal housing officials were never informed of the corporate switch.
Joining DiNapoli in this limited partnership, according to corporate papers, were his daughter Deborah, then only 19 years old ($65,000 for a 4.945 per cent interest), Crea ($130,000/9.89 per cent), Inner City Drywall president Antonio Rodrigues ($130,000/9.89 per cent), and Genovese associate Robert DeFilippis ($130,000/9.89 per cent). DeFilippis is currently facing federal extortion and conspiracy charges in New Jersey.
On a financial disclosure statement filed last year with the U.S. Parole Office, Louis DiNapoli also reported having a $109,500 stake in Rochester Associates, but his partnership interest is not reflected on any of the group’s corporate papers. — W.B.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 15, 2020