In this episode of Gangland Wire, Gary Jenkins delves into the story of Donnie Brasco, aka Joe Pistone, and his introduction to the mob through a minor criminal named Jilly Greca. Jilly, whose real name was Angelo J. Greca, was a member of the Colombo family and owned a store in Brooklyn called Acerg that was a front for stolen goods. Jilly and his crew would meet at the store to plan heists and socialize. Donnie Brasco became close with Jilly and started hanging out at the store, discussing scores and sharing stories. Jilly’s crew was involved in stealing from docks, warehouses, and truck lines, with inside connections to dock workers and truck drivers. Donnie, an undercover FBI agent, gained acceptance among the crew and played a role in getting Jilly indicted. Donnie engaged in illegal activities throughout his undercover work but constantly fed information to the FBI. Jilly was later killed, possibly due to the information provided by Donnie. Jilly’s capo, Charlie “Moose” Panarella, was a renowned and feared mafia figure known for torturing and killing a powerful capo named Dominic Mimi Schiallo. Despite Jilly’s lack of earning power, his murder became necessary due to his potential murder charge and the risk he posed to the crew. Moose Panarella was eventually exiled to Las Vegas but was called back periodically by Carmine Persico to carry out murders. The episode concludes with reminders to seek help for PTSD or substance abuse, and recommendations for resources, like Joe Pistone’s book, “Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia.”
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The Mysterious Jilly Greca – Donnie Brasco’s First Target
[0:00] Well, hey guys, Gary Jenkins here, back here in the studio of Gangland Wire, bringing you a story. I’ve been asked several times about Donnie Brasco or Joe Pistone, and how did he really get started?
And one guy mentioned that the very first guy was Jilly Greca.
As a matter of fact, I think it was a comment on YouTube or email or Facebook.
I don’t remember, but he asked about Jilly Greca and a little bit about him and he said this was the very first guy that got Joe Pistone going into the Bonanno family and actually the Colombo family and then the Bonanno family. And, you know, I looked it up. I did all the research I could.
There isn’t a lot about this guy. He’s kind of a minor guy who was just your career criminal in New York City back in the 50s and 60s and 70s. Joe Pistone talked about him a little bit, not a lot.
I think it was kind of, it was just one more stepping stone on Joe Pistone’s career to fame, which he has done that.
Let me tell you what I could find out about him. You know, his real name was Angelo J. Greca.
[1:13] And he was born in 1927, which made him, you know, in his 50s and 60s back in those days.
He did a stint behind bars in the early 70s.
He got arrested in Switzerland on the charges of conspiracy to transport and sell a $100,000 U.S. Treasury note that had been stolen from a New York brokerage firm.
Now, the mob used to do that. They’d steal these Treasury notes or these bonds that could be cashed, and they’d take them to Switzerland, and take them to a bank and get loans against them, because then they’d just hold on to it until the loan was finally called years later, because they weren’t making the payments, and then they’d have this stolen bond.
And also you could, back then you could trade them off in Switzerland and there wasn’t, you didn’t have the computer connections and all that back in those days.
He lived in Brooklyn, grew up in Brooklyn. He was made in 1977 a member of the Colombo family.
He’ll be killed in 1980, in April of 1980. So he didn’t have a very long career.
Jilly Greca’s Criminal Activities and Tragic End
[2:14] He had three years as a made guy.
His father’s name was Joseph, who was an early days Colombo member.
Now, Jelly Greca owned a small store called Acerg, A-C-E-R-G, which is Greca spelled backwards.
How convenient, how original.
The storefront was in Brooklyn at 7612 15th Avenue for you listeners that live in New York City. I’d drive by that and see if there’s anything still there Let me know.
[2:40] It was a storefront, the front room was filled with racks of expensive name brand clothes like Gucci, YSL, Donna Karan and all the big name brands. And of course it was all swag, it was all stolen.
And the back part of it was just stacked, piled high with more swag, stolen goods of all kinds.
He had a little office back there. That’s where all of his, he had a crew.
He was kind of like the central figure and a little crew of mob associates.
And he was an associate at Palumbo’s.
And this front was right next to the Park Ridge Pharmacy and there was a grocery store along there too.
He had guys that named like Guido and Tommy the Chief and Vinnie and kind of your usual names of mom associates.
And they’d all meet at the store every day to plan scores and socialize, it was kind of like their social club.
And one of them, if somebody came in to buy something, you know, one of them would go out front and act like the clerk and wait on customers.
All the goods were priced at least, you know, half, maybe three quarters of the normal price than what you’d have to pay in a regular store because everything was swag.
Everything was stolen goods. We had the same thing in Kansas City.
Had a couple of storefronts like this. One of them sold nothing but records, record albums called Tigers, and the other one was Junior Bradley’s. He didn’t really have a name of the store, I don’t think, that I ever knew.
But it was filled with stolen goods and everything was half price what you would have paid for it in a store.
[4:05] Stone started frequenting a restaurant called Carmello’s. Another agent was working undercover at the time, introduced him to a kind of a half-wise guy named Albert and they kind of clicked and he started building his reputation as a jewelry expert. He’d gone to some kind of a jewelry store and jewelry is an easy thing to go buy and then sell out as swag and act like it’s stolen. There’s no way to really check on it and it’s kind of highly desired among other lobsters and they They could buy a diamond ring cheap or a gold bracelet or something like that real cheap.
You know, hey, who’s not going to do it?
He claimed he was originally from California. He’d been in Florida most recently, and they had a backup down in Florida that they ended up, when he got close to Lepi Rosario, they called on this backup dude down in Florida, and he vouched for Pistone.
Albert then introduced him to Jilly Greca, because Jilly Greca was, you know, He was always looking for swag and Jelly kind of took a liking to this new character, Donnie Brasco.
And pretty soon he was hanging out at Jelly’s storefront and talking about scores, supposedly some of the scores he’d done.
And Joe Pistone later will describe these days as just sitting around, smoking, playing gin, talking about past scores, future scores, funny scores, big scores, the biggest score ever, the worst score ever, the most.
[5:22] Closest time they ever got caught score just like a bunch of cops sitting around telling all their war stories or wherever you work If you got war stories with your work same kind of a deal pretty soon Jilly, or maybe one of the guys he befriended would go out and drink with someplace else and.
[5:38] They would introduce him as a new guy to Jilly’s crew at other Colombo Social clubs and bars, which is pretty good for Joe Pistone Jilly’s crews were stealing from docks and warehouses and truck lines.
They usually had an inside connection with either a dock worker or a truck driver who would tip them off and look the other way, you know, set some, several cases of Polaroid film out on the dock and you just swing by and pick it up like this was normal business and keep on going.
Meet you down at a railroad car or a Lomas siding that had a bunch of stuff in it, you know, some microwave ovens or something like that.
Just pull up by there, throw them in your car and keep on going.
They kept jelly store filled with brand name stuff, clothes of course, and razor blades and film, leather gloves, some sort of thing. They seem to have a lot of aesthetic connection.
Booze of course is always highly desirable because it’s small and it’s high dollar.
Perfume, small and high dollar.
Any small high dollar items are highly desirable The boosters get them, or you can get a whole lot of stuff, high value stuff in a small, much smaller container.
You don’t have to have old truckload like with men’s suits or something.
You have to have sizes and you, you know, they take up a lot of space and all that.
Frozen steaks and seafood, frozen food, is a pretty good one too.
I ran across a guy here in Kansas City that was doing that.
[7:03] Saw him going to the pickup, driving to the pickup, and he had the pickup bed was full of short ribs and they were supposed to be frozen.
I followed him around and decided to go to several different little stores like restaurants, independently owned restaurants or grocery stores, and he’d sell them a case or two of these ribs.
So then I just kept looking into him, looking into him, finally figured out he had a connection with a guy that had a freezer business that transported meat meat in interstate commerce, transported this frozen meat in interstate commerce, and he had a hook into him.
Pistone was walking a tightrope all this time, and they asked him to go on a lot of different scores, and the Bureau would never give him permission.
He would help loanload and stack and sell and do that kind of thing.
What he usually did when they really had him pinned down to go out on the score, he would start pointing out the dangers in each score and bound out because he thought it was too risky.
Suspicion and Confrontation in Jilly’s Crew
[8:07] Kind of cost him his place in Jilly’s crew because they started getting suspicious of him. One guy, you know, confronted him one day, said, hey, every time I come up with a good score, dude, you’re always shooting it down. And Ira, you know, if you listen to his podcast or heard him being interviewed, he’s a pretty brash guy and he’ll come right back at you harder than ever.
So he was somehow able to worm his way out of that or bully his way out of it or overpower that guy out of that and explain it in some manner, you know, call him stupid, you know, you’re an idiot, you’re gonna get caught.
I’m not getting caught, I do good scores. That guy can see how you can get away with that.
But this one guy named Guido got in Pistone’s car one day and just kept saying, I hear a squeak in the dash, you know, there’s a squeak in the dash.
And Joe Pistone’s going, I don’t hear him squeaking the dash.
[9:00] And the guy’s, oh no, man, doesn’t that drive you crazy? And he happened to have a screwdriver and pair of pliers
Joe Pistone’s Showdown with Guido
[9:06] And he’s pocket, so he pulled him out. He started like trying to take the dash apart.
[9:11] And he got part of it pulled apart. And when they got done, the guy finally admitted, he said, well, you know, you’re always trying to get out of going on scores.
You’re talking guys out of going on scores.
And I’m suspicious and I’m looking for a microphone. But once he did that, and then of course Joe jumped him, you know, said, hey, what are you talking about? You’re suspicious of me.
You know, you know, you come back hard if you get if you get called out like that, you got to come back hard and came back hard.
And of course, the rest is history. The guy said, you know, well, I guess you’re not.
As a matter of fact, after that, he seemed to even be accepted a little bit more after the guy was going around and said, yeah, I’ve checked these days out.
There’s no confining microphones or anything in his car.
He moved a lot of stolen perfume. That’s another small high dollar item that the Bureau can go out and buy.
Wristwatches bought a whole bunch of, you know, wholesale. He went out and bought, you know, cases of a hundred dollar wristwatches and sold them to the guys for 20 bucks each and get it.
But, you know, get a pretty nice wristwatch for 20 bucks. It cost a hundred.
Go out and give it to somebody. And, you know, you buy a lot of goodwill like that.
Jilly once even tried to sell him an expensive sable coat that he got somehow I never could trace it down where he got it. He wormed his way out of that one somehow and I get a $25,000, $20,000 coat.
[10:36] During all this time, he’s feeding this intelligence to Bureau, which will result in an indictment on Jilly Greco, but he never knew exactly where it came from. Jilly Greco was not a violent guy.
And here’s a pretty good example of what kind of a leader he was. These guys, every leader is a little bit different in this world. And even where you work, your boss, your sergeant, your captain, or your, you know, your supervisor or whatever.
Jilly Greco’s Leadership Style and a Failed Score
[11:04] They’re all different. Some of them are explosive and not, maybe not in the workplace violent, but, you know, they just kind of have that edge to them and wanna yell and scream about things and, you know, call somebody on the carpet or embarrass them in front of other people.
You know, I like to look at the mob like a little business.
And so you have different types of supervisors. And here’s an example of how he managed it.
They went on a score once.
He was on the score himself. An alarm was tripped, the cops responded, and they were able to get away, but there was a kid that was supposed to be jiggering or a lookout out there, a young guy had just been a hang around.
[11:42] And he ran off.
As soon as he saw the cops, he ran off.
They got away, and they got back to the store. Jilly says, we’re gonna do that place again.
There’s some good stuff in there, but that kid ain’t never going out to school with us again.
Now, you know, that’s all he did. Another boss might’ve had the kid murdered, for all we know.
At least beaten up pretty badly. 1976, Jilly Graca showed up wearing a suit, freshly shined shoes.
You know, it looked like he stepped out of a band box, as we say.
Joe Pistone claimed that when he left the store and returned several hours later, he was talking about being straightened out. That was the day he was made.
He would claim that he had dreamed about this since he was a kid.
[12:19] This was the greatest day of his life. Now, what kind of a dude is this?
The greatest day of your life, become a made member of the mafia.
I guess in that world, It might be the greatest day of your life.
I know Lefty Ruggiero talks about how cool it was to be a made guy and how nobody can touch you.
You can, you know, you can get away with murder. You can do anything you want.
They appealing of invincibility, as most of them find out they’re not invincible, but for a while they feel like they’re invincible.
And it wasn’t too long after that, the government indicted Jilly on some kind of burglar or stolen property charge, which was directly based on Joe Pistone’s intelligence they’d been feeding him.
He also during this time in 1978, it’s been made a couple of years, it looks like he was part of a four-man hit team that killed an informer named Frank Morrisey.
Now he’s got one indictment down on him for the stolen property, not a big deal, but one member of this hit team on this Frank Morrisey case was named Pasquale Centaur.
He became a cooperator for the Brooklyn DA’s office, so.
[13:19] Now Grek is looking at a murder charge also. Wasn’t it just a few months later he was killed?
Obviously a hit. Now it wasn’t a typical mob hit. They didn’t trick him into going somewhere where he would be alone, sitting in a stoplight, and a guy in a motorcycle pulls up next to him and looks at him, and he looks at him, and the guy with the motorcycle produces a handgun and just starts shooting him and kills him there at the stoplight.
A little bit like Tommy Uva and his girlfriend, and the guys that robbed the mob.
So I don’t know, the mob has done those kinds of hits. Usually they try to get your best friend to set you up and get you in a place where there can be absolutely no witnesses.
But he was hit, and Joe Pistone later will say, you know, this may be the first time some of the information that I’d gathered and provided caused somebody to get killed, and he didn’t know for sure.
It was probably a combination of things, especially that potential murder charge.
Now, when Graca was first made, the new Colombo boss was Carmine Persico, and he put him under a really brutal and violent capo named Charlie Moose Parinella.
[14:28] This guy had a history with Persico and had once been targeted by Albert Gallo as a revenge for the murder of Crazy Joe Gallo.
Parinella was, I think he was probably part of that murder of Crazy Joe, not that he was one of them that went in.
I’m pretty sure he wasn’t one of them. the name is going in, but, but he had some to do with that.
Charlie Moose Paranella was legendary. And one thing he was known for was he had once tortured and killed a very powerful mafia capo, Dominic Mimi Schiallo.
[15:01] And this was just done as a favor for Carlo Gambino because Gambino was at a joint, a restaurant in Coney Island.
And for some reason, Schiallo mocked him to his face.
Death sentence there, dude. He was also feared by his own crew if he ever caught them shortening him on their share of divvying up, kicking up. And he was greedy and he didn’t trust anybody and they were petrified that he might have him killed, but not so much.
The Operation of a Criminal Mastermind
[15:31] That this one dude Guido told Pistone once about how this guy operated. He made everybody, man, a score. When they got the cash, they brought it to him, and then he counted, and he gave them back what he thought they should have and kept what he thought he should have.
Guido said, what you do is you just don’t ever tell them the whole how much money you got.
You just tell them part of the money, and then they’ll take part of that. Another thing Joe Pistone will speculate that Jimmy Greco was really, he didn’t make big scores. He was not a big earner for anybody. They didn’t really value him that much. So it was pretty easy to kill him off, and especially if it became risky to leave him out there on the streets. And a guy like this with the murder charge would be risky being left on the streets. A bit about his capo, Moose Paranella, he fell, he got in trouble with Carmine Persico, and Persico would exile him to Las Vegas. He had to live out there. But Persico would call him back periodically whenever he wanted someone murdered. Otherwise, he had to do his work in Las Vegas. Now, it’s interesting. All the work I’ve done in Las Vegas, that name’s not really come across my desk that I know anything about. I need to maybe look into that. There might be some stories out there about Moose Parnell in Las Vegas. I don’t remember Frank Ciccolato talking about him either. Parnell in 1991 will side with Victor Arena against Persico when Arena tried to take over the Clumbo family.
[17:00] And during that time, nobody would try to kill Moose Parnell. He had that, he created that much
The Gruesome Revenge on Jimmy Beans
[17:07] fear. Here’s another thing he did, the legendary thing he did. There was a guy named Jimmy Beans, A guy called Jimmy Beans and he molested a nine-year-old boy and they found out about it.
And he was a grandson of Little Vic Arena.
Jimmy Beans was kidnapped by a group of men after he left a bowling alley.
Now, the rumor was after this that Jimmy Beans was taken to a garage in Sheepshead Bay and they cut off his dick and shoved it up his rectum.
Now, I don’t know how you shove somebody’s limp dick up their rectum, but he did.
Supposedly, he was gonna be left that way on the street as a warning to anybody else, but somebody saw him, snatched him off the street, so they couldn’t take a chance of letting the body being found.
They just melted his body with acid and 55-gallon drum, filled it with cement, and dropped it into the ocean out there in Brooklyn somewhere.
So that’s kind of the story, primarily, of Jilly Greca, the first, very first guy that we know.
[18:12] That was a real mob guy that started Joe Pistone, helped him create his credibility and his story as he stair-stepped his way into the Bonanno family.
Because from here, Jilly Greco wasn’t making many contacts, he wasn’t that well-connected, didn’t know that many people.
And it’ll take this relationship to then he meets Tony Mira and he realizes this guy is somebody and knows somebody and he’s able to befriend Tony Mera. And from Tony Mera, then he moves in with Lefty Ruggiero, who then puts him into the crew and into Sonny Black’s crew, Sonny Black Napoletano, who takes him in. And then when he gives him the, supposedly, the story is he was going to give him the contract to kill this, what is it, Bruno Indelicato. And that’s when he had to surface.
And of course, when he surfaced, Sonny Black paid for it with his life and Lefty Ruggiero would have except he caught another case and went to the penitentiary.
So that’s that and interesting story and that’s the very first guy that Joe Pistone got involved with in New York City.
So thanks a lot for listening to the podcast. Don’t forget to like and subscribe, tell your friends about it.
[19:29] And if you have a problem with PTSD and you’ve been in the service, be sure and go to the VA website and get that hotline number.
Or if you have problems with drugs or alcohol, go to our friend, Anthony Ruggiano’s website, anthonyruggiano.com or the YouTube page.
He’s got a hotline number. He’s a drug and alcohol counselor.
To go into treatment, you can go in and have him be your counselor down in Florida.
And a big shout out to Joe Pistone, his book, Donnie Brasco, My Undercover Life in the Mafia for this.
Thanks a lot, guys.