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Remo catches Frank Sinatra at Social Club

Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Remo Franceschini was a famous mafia-busting NYPD Intelligence officer. This is another story of his vaunted career. Gary tells about how Remo worked on a Lucchese Capo named Big Sam Cavalieri. He installed a hidden microphone inside his social club on Second Avenue between 111th and 112th. Among other tidbits of information, he heard the Lucchese acting boss, Carmine Tramunti, Mr. Grebs, call Jilly Rizzo and invite him to a feast at the social club. He asked Rizzo to bring some of the NY Yankees players who frequented Jilly’s, and Rizzo replied, “Sure, and Franks in town, so I will get him.” Everybody in that world knew he meant Frank Sinatra.
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GARY JENKINS 00:00
Well hey guys, I’m bringing you another story of the well known and hated and feared New York copper Lieutenant Remo Franceschini and nobody hated him more than John Gotti because Gotti knew that Remo focused a lot of manpower on Gotti and a lot of attention on Gotti especially once he ascended to become the boss of the Gambino family after they killed Paulie Castellano. The NYPD intelligence unit was not like the FBI. Now Remo Franceschini’s worked for the NYPD intelligence unit. And they investigated all five families that kind of depending on you know, where what looked fine, what looked interesting what looked possible, or if there was some crime had been committed that had a lot of heat on it. That was maybe a mob connected deal. Then they might focus on a particular guy or particular family, but they didn’t just focus on one family like the Bureau has, you know, the banana squad my friend Doug pencil worked on the banana squad, and they have a separate squad the Gambino squad is separate squad for everyone in the families at that time. Now looking back over remote career, I found a great story about him, exposing the fact that Frank Sinatra was meeting with wiseguys there in New York City. He had put a wire on a phone and installed a hidden mic inside an East Harlem Social Club operated by a Lucchese family Capo named Big Sam Cavalieri. This club was located for you New York listeners the club was located on Second Avenue between 11th and 12th street I don’t have any more info than that Remo put a listening post inside the basement of a low rent apartment a couple of blocks away now that’s why they would do it in New York tap in but find the the line for the phone and put the microphone inside someplace and then run it down and along with the phone lines and up outside up to a pole and then maybe down a pole and then drop it back down into a listening post and they just put one down in the basement of this apartment building and they just go sit in there on on there all by themselves sometimes they’re made they’d have to guys it’s kind of depends on who was available and they may be sitting in there and they may not Remo usually sat on this listening post by himself he’s probably one of those guys this is when he was still a detective he’s probably one of those guys that everybody else was wanting to go shopping or go dog off someplace he would go ahead and keep working. He was a master of dressing to fit in the neighborhood because he grew up in the neighborhood or a similar neighborhood during the summer and this was summertime so he wore a white beard and shorts and sneakers so you know just fit in he’d walk around he maybe wear a Yankees hat and keep his head down and not really look around and catch anybody’s I just like kind of glide on through like he had someplace to go one time he left the post of visit a nearby bodega and because you want to get some sodas It was hot down there big Sam happen to be on the street and it gave him a look as he walked by on Second Avenue when Remo got back to listening post he overheard Sam and another guy talking about him describing him and said you know who is that guy because he didn’t really fit in you know didn’t recognize him from the neighborhood is these neighborhoods around these social clubs if you know if you’re like over an age and a male during those times they’re gonna watch your and wonder who you are for your some kind of agent or a cop or whatever. And they decided between the two of them that a one that cop he wasn’t an agent he was just some guy wanting to get laid by the broads upstairs now Remo figured there must have been some prostitutes that that had an apartment that brought guys in once in a while upstairs somewhere in the block he never did really figure out who it was. You know it’s always nice to learn that mobsters you’re watching buys your cover disguises you’re just a guy in the neighborhood passing through you know I used to like to wear like service station work shirt with some kind of a name on it maybe maybe even some kind of another logo for a gas station and it kinda and then have a story ready about why you were where you were and where I work. And if somebody confronted you when you’re just in a neighborhood or hanging around close by someplace it’s always good you need some kind of a story some some kind of a peg that they can hang their hat on set and pigeonhole you as a particular whatever it is that you’re trying to come off as so it’s it’s kind of a cat and mouse game I was never really confronted directly on the street at a bar a couple of times I was and I just played it off one time I’d said I worked for the city as well or you work for the city and I said pollution control which is you know waste disposal the trash man and nobody messes with the trash man and I really look like a trash man but I was ready to say you know I was like a manager downtown that that helped get the trash trucks out and all that Sam capillary was a gang Moran ran a book and he was had risen to Cabo and Lucchese crime family. He started out as a soldier of course in East Harlem and he always operated out in East Harlem Remo knew that big Sam always operated his policy racket and his sports book out of this particular club. Now big Sam was a real working man’s mobster. He went like God he didn’t wear $1,000 silk suit. He didn’t eat and drink at the Uptown nightclubs like the CoCo cabana like his boss, temporary boss at time Lucchese boss was Carmine Tramunti, at the time, who loved the high lifestyle big Sam was content to stay in East Harlem live in Queens and eat in pizza joints and they do his business right there with people in the neighborhood. He rose up through the ranks to be capital, like I said, of this Harlem crew, and he had a pretty good sized group of wise guys in East Harlem and the Bronx that were loyal to him. They were totally loyal to him. His activities were kind of you know, we’re more than just gambling. He was a he was a pretty he was a good earner as they say. He corrupted local 29 the blasters miners and drill runners Union were squeezing money out of contractors whenever they needed union workers. In 1980. He and associate Thomas Mann Cousteau were the targets of a federal investigation into the racketeering. He also got involved in drug trafficking he was working with and around the French Connection, which Tremonti was involved in that that was a notorious network of heroin smugglers that went from the 1930s. really up to the 1970s. If you remember the movie, The French Connection, help a good movie, I was a book, The France connection, I mean, this, this was those books, that book and that movie, robbing more he interviewed a lot of those guys, and that’s the one or Gene Hackman played Popeye Doyle, who was really Eddie Egan, who was part of this intelligence unit. Remo would have worked with Eddie Egan Remo discovered that big Sam used an elaborate system to prevent law enforcement and get into his accounting books that he uses the gambling operation. He knew the county books were the thing that tally sheets and who the betters were and who’s winning and who’s losing and and each day they would, they would tally up, you know, who had placed what bad on what game and what the point spread was. And then at the end of the week on pay off day, and they would go over that and go out and collect or pay off. The other wire revealed that the bookies and the betters never call directly to the headquarters now that the headquarters for the actual gambling operation was not the social club that was someplace else and what they what Remo was trying to do, he wanted to find where this headquarters was, was located, and then serve a search warrant on it and get all those books. And that would really mess him up for a day or two and then make a few little gambling cases out of the deal. But what big Sam was doing, he hired housewives and retirees who could be trusted that would always use their home phones, as you know, several different answering services. So a bookie would call a particular phone operated by one of these housewives. And they’d use a code like red for Joe or red for Pete. Now red was a guy that worked at Bookie headquarters, and he would call these other phones periodically, who weren’t really connected to the gambling operation except for this one unknown factor that they were just acting as an answering service. He would call them periodically and get these messages then he would call back out to these bookies who had called in the answering service. If they had wiretaps on any of these individual bookies phones, it would never have them calling to where headquarters was located. They never they didn’t have that number they didn’t call in to where the books were located. Now the bookie would call the guy at the booking headquarters where the books were located the tally sheets and all that he would call back out and they couldn’t they could only get those that number if somebody called into it where they had a wire but if he was calling back out to the bookies even though they had a wire on the buggy, they would get the you know they would get the gravy off the wire to have the information off the wiretap but they couldn’t lock right into that number for some reason. It’s different now but back then it was like that. So as he was listening these different bookies individual bookies out there was not getting enough evidence to spot this headquarters or sports book headquarters where the paper evidence it’d be located in need to get that address. He heard a lot of other tantalizing tidbits of course, as you do on a wire, I remember we had a wire going one time on accident on a cocaine dealer. And then we identified another guy who was talking to him but he wouldn’t wouldn’t in the cocaine business with him. But there’s some allusion to marijuana and they went over and traced that guy and they found I don’t know, you know, tons and tons of, of detritus from kilos that had been gotten by this guy and broken apart. So then they took that information and served a search warrant on his house and made a big call to marijuana at his place and put him away for quite a while. So you know those those other little tantalizing tidbits can help he didn’t hear big Sam talking to one of his bookmaking guys and Warren why he had not been at work was a sick you okay? Well Remo knew that this guy was one of them that was working at headquarters. So now they’ve got the name of one of the people that work at this booking headquarters where all the bedding betters list were in the tally sheets and all that exam had called his home so now they got his home. Now they got that address. They did a full background check on him found this guy that he was talking to they had an old bookmaking charge so you start putting this together they put us surveillance on him and wasn’t long for they catch him going into a building down in the Wall Street area more than once kind of like is going to work. Ah, so then you get around that building you can’t tell exactly where he’s going on the inside. And one of them got lucky and and I think they got up in another building across the street and saw him going into an office so boom that gets a search warrant they take off big Sam’s headquarters now and hurt him for about a week because the losers would of course forget that they had that bet and not pay they might forget to pay and they’re not gonna go if they know that you’ve been taken off and all your bookworks gone they’re not going to voluntarily come in and pay and the winners all will be back demand and payment of course, and this bug will real big Sam had a police captain New York PD police captain that he was bribing because he was able to get a bunch of these tally sheets back and then make sure everybody paid up and and he paid that knew he was paying all the right people. Ray will never could figure out who this captain was. You know that happens sometimes you just can never identify who somebody is. One day he heard Lucchese boss Carmine Tremonti in social club calling a guy named Julie Rizzo at his restaurant. Now, you may or may not recognize that name Julie Rizzo, but he was well known friend close close friend of Frank Sinatra. He invites jelly to some kind of feast at the Social Club and asked him to bring some of the Yankees players who had been frequent in his nightclub and restaurant. Jelly replied, Oh, yeah, I can do that. Oh, and yeah, Frank’s in town, maybe I’ll bring Frank. Tramunti said you know hey, yeah, sure. Bring him on up deepen down inside he’s going oh, yeah, a few days later Remo sees them bring Frank Sinatra into the club. You know, of course he immediately gets down to the bug and but he’s unable to get any conversation from Sinatra because of the mics locations not little bit when he was kind of close. You sounded like it might be Sinatra. When he was talking in real low tones. It couldn’t really get a good conversation out of it. But all the other guys the wise guys in the club were called all their girlfriends and other friends and hey, FS is here. Come on over because one guy replied Oh, who the fuck is FS? Got the club trying to keep his voice low because they didn’t want anybody know they were calling people upset. You know, Sinatra. Frank Sinatra was the neighborhood kids was bragging called several colleagues like buddy or something off that club phone that was tapped in and he’s bragging. Now Frank Sinatra gave him a free $50 tip and Remo finds out later that this Gilio, a great big fat heroin dealer that hung out in the club. He took the 50 bucks off the kid said hey, that’s a Club’s money. Good. That ain’t your money. You know what a jerk. What a jerk. You know what a fucking jerk. In 1969 in New York Grand Jury jailed big Sam for refusing to testify what he knew about Carmine Tramunti and whether or not Tramuntihad actually become the next Lucchese boss. After Thomas three finger brown Lucchese or Thomas Lucchese died. You know, remember Three Finger Brown Lucchesee was the first boss of the Lucchese family had gone way back. Since he was a Capo under Trumanti who was the acting boss of the family at the time, they figured he could talk about it. Trumanti will later be nailed for financing a massive heroin ring in 1973. A gambling was Cavalieri’s passion and speciality. He ran a lot of different games in his territory and numbers sports betting card games. He had connections Las Vegas casinos and bookmakers. And people little layoff guys all around the country made him a big player in the sports booking operations. Cavalieri was respected and trusted by his peers and his superiors alike. He had had a close relationship with Gaetano Lucchese who had been the boss of the family from 51 to 67. Big Sam had also mentored several younger mobsters like Anthony Tony Ducks Corolla who will become the boss of the Lucchese family in 1979. Cavalieri will pay a heavy price for his crimes in 1981. He was found guilty of criminal contempt and given three and a half years was in prison for refusing to testify and he died shortly after 1987. And he was 76 years old when he died. So guys, that’s the story of how Remo Franceschini was the New York cop who exposed Frank Sinatra meeting at a Lucchese social club with the acting boss Lucchese family couldn’t find anything else out there about it other than in the Remo book. So the Remo book is pretty good. You guys might want to get that it’s A Matter of Honor: One Cop’s Lifelong Pursuit of John Gotti and the mob, so I highly recommend you get that book. So remember, I like to ride motorcycles, so make sure that you look out for motorcycles when you’re out there. We just lost one yesterday or day before guy was going through an intersection, somebody was creeping out wanting to do a right turn on red, didn’t see the motorcycle going on the cross street pulls right out into him and he guilty. That’s like the second guy we’ve had killed on a motorcycle in the last two or three days. Now the other guy heard about him. Other Guy was one of these young dudes on these crotch rocket, who was like going in and out of traffic in and out of traffic going in and out of traffic and somebody, I think pulled over into him or whatever. But you know, when you start doing that, you know, you’re probably going to bite or you’re gonna get hurt eventually. That other guy is going through an intersection I’ve had this happen to me where it just, I would just so close is you know, inches away from somebody porn right out into your right in front of me several times because they don’t see you when you’re on a motorcycle. But if you have a problem with PTSD, they’ll forget, go to the VA website, get that hotline number if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, go see our friend Anthony ruggiano. He has a hotline and ruggiano.com or his YouTube page. And be sure to like and subscribe and tell your friends about the podcast and you know, I’m gonna keep doing this. I really have a lot of fun with it. I get talking to a lot of interesting people. I talk to mobsters. I talk to agents that like I talked to an agent the other day that was one of the agents that worked on Joe Massino as he went into the witness protection program and he told me a lot of good stories about Joe Massino my friend Doug Fencl, and we actually moved back to Kansas City is the guy that went to Sonny black Napolitano and left you Ruggerio and told them Hey jopa stone Donnie Brasco is not an informant. He’s really jopa stone an FBI agent. And you know, Mikey scars, got to talk to him were the first people to talk to him. He was a lot of fun. I really like Mikey Scars. You know, these guys, they all have the good. mobsters have a good personality. They have a business like demeanor. You know, it’s just business. It’s not personal. They just play by a different set of rules that were raised with those rules. And they played by different set of rules. And until they can’t play by those rules anymore. My friend Steve St. John, he said, You know, I can’t do it. He said people that come to the penitentiary when he was in the joint, and they would have some kind of a scheme for when they got out and they said you know what your problem is? You haven’t done enough time yet. He said I’ve done enough time. He said Don’t miss it. Sometimes you accused him of being afraid he’s you damn right. I’m afraid. What the hell? So it’s good to see you guys again and keep coming back. Thanks a lot.

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