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Remo Franceschini and the New York Mafia

Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Gary tells how NYPD Intelligence Unit Lt. Remo Franceschini led an investigation into Bonanno boss Phil “Rusty” Rastelli for extorting money from lunch wagon drivers in New York City. Next, he tells how Lt. Franceschini learned about a mob hit and missed putting detectives on the scene before the murder. We also learn about the Bonanno Family funeral fight. Remo Franceschini quickly became a hero cop when he saved his partner’s life in a violent gun battle with an armed robbery suspect.

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Transcript

GARY JENKINS 00:00
Hey guys, it’s Gary Jenkins and welcome back in the studio Gangland Wire, which we’ll get to say my name I don’t know most people do say that but I think all you guys probably know who I am by now. I would hope anyhow. So I’m starting a series of shorts about the exploits of the colorful New York City Police mob Buster, Lieutenant Remo Franceschini, it’s hard name for me to say Franceschini. I got it there. Franceschini. Remo was known to every mob boss in New York City as a tough, incorruptible and determined, dude. And he worked his way up to the different branches of the NYPD intelligence. He started out as a street policeman, of course, got a shootout saved his partner got like the Medal of Honor whatever they got in New York City, and ended up in the intelligence unit kind of like me, No, I never gotten the shoot out and say my partner but I ended up in the intelligence unit, and started out in the early days working to street mob guys and narcotics dealers. And eventually, by the end, he’s taken on the boss’s head on and they all know who he is. Now, he did have a short stop along the way in his career working on Black Panthers and other groups advocating civil disorder, which I did some of that to the Black Panthers was gone. But there were some other groups and the Klu Klux Klan here in Missouri, worked on them for a while, not very much fun, not as much fun as a mob guys. One of the early cases he had was he went after a boss, who was actually the acting boss after Carmine Galante went to prison on a narcotics conviction. This guy’s name was Phil Rastelli. He was running the Bonanno family. The Bonanno family was extorting lunch truck operators. Now we’ve all gotten a sandwich from a lunch truck, right? They’ve got those quilted aluminum backs to them and they flop down the sides and they have coffee and they have cold drinks and on ice and they have sandwiches you know pre made sandwiches. Some of them are a little more fancy we always call them Tomaine wagons. I remember we had one guy. It was little more fancy downtown. He was an Italian guy and he specialized in really good cold cut sandwiches that had salami and prosciutto and bologna and Italian beef and the big ones we called them Hurt Your Mouth. They were so big, that huge big pieces of bread. They were great sandwiches. Oh, we also had meatball sandwiches, hot meatball sandwiches and Italian steak sandwiches and variety of other things. And anyhow, these lunch wagons are all over the place especially at one time I’m not in that world now. They’re still now their food dress. There’s food trucks at park downtown. These are lunch wagons. Back in the day, I still see one every Friday night I come from a place that I go every Friday night usually and come up in kind of an industrial area and cutting back through behind the on the side streets. And there’s a lunch wagon gold facing lunch wagon sitting there as always, sir, for people to pull up on their cars, I guess there’s must be some little factories around their businesses with a night shift. But in 1973, New York City had 1000s of these lunch wagons. And during the 1960s A guy named Gary Patrolle started the Workmen’s Mobile Lunch Association, they had 48 members to start off with and he only charged three bucks a week per truck. They’re supposed to help with disputes over territory and maybe pool of money together and get some kind of a group insurance or put together a group to get make large purchases from suppliers. And they can get them when they bought large purchases and split them up among the members of the organization. They get a better price most of that really never came about. But what did come about was the mob got involved here. They saw this as a way to get involved. Now some of these disputes really kind of set the scene for the mob to come in. Because some guy might have three or four wagons even so he’s a little bigger duck, he might stake out a really lucrative factory of business, then some individual entrepreneur up can see that they’ll come in and set up the same place. And now the lunch wagon operator that fights breaking out between each other they will start price wars. Now the organization was supposed to deal with that they didn’t deal with it very well. And within a couple of years, Mr. Patrolle was replaced by a guy named Louis Rastelli. Guess who was the nephew of Phil Rastelli, the Bonanno boss now he brought in a guy named Anthony de Stefano, who was elected Secretary- Treasurer the association. So this pretty much put the mob in complete domination of that lunch wagon operators organization. And first thing they started doing was extorting money from food suppliers to the lunch trucks. They demanded kickbacks it was kind of computed on a percentage of the number of purchases made by their organization’s members. And of course, then they started lining up other individual operators and you got to join our organization And or else well, the old school like extortion thing but aid same thing happened your truck and I’d see as flat tires that morning when it came out or I’d hate to see that might throw Molotov cocktail at your truck maybe some of these kids out here we can’t control these kids sometimes they may come along and rip me off and so pretty soon everybody’s belonging join in the alleged wagon operators Association course next thing is they start extorting money from the ones truck operators made, they would like sell them a good lucrative organization. Or maybe you have somebody that was connected to a mob guy, it was connected to rest LA and pretty soon, some thugs would show up and boom, what they call bumping a competing truck from a lucrative location I talked about so it was totally mob dominated and you had to be in with the mob, which meant you had to kick on some money in order to get their help and they run the thing. Well, this was a case when the New York City organized crime, StrikeForce took it on and Lieutenant Remo Princess, he was part of that. And with these types of investigations, you start off you just get word from informants. For example, if somebody and maybe you know somebody in that business is complaining about these mob guys, nobody will ever bring a regular complaint. Nobody will ever call the police for the most part, but just started hearing about it. So then you start an investigation. You don’t really have any evidence you don’t have any cooperating witnesses start off and you can’t really go anywhere. But they created what they called Operation hot dog great name for it. They started trying to find cooperating witnesses because they knew it was going on. Well, me go ask these guys and they say I don’t know what you’re talking about. Who me? I don’t know a mob guys. McBurney soon they get word from a New York City street cop who had a relative who had gotten a beating from some banana jobs, because he wouldn’t fall in line. So they approached him, and got his cooperation. got the New York City Police Copper’s relative to buck him up, because you got to buck these people up and you’re gonna ask them to stay involved and gather evidence for and eventually be a witness. That’s a dicey thing. And pretty soon he did do that he agreed and they started learning about other connected businesses, other lunch wagon operators and had a whole bunch of lunch wagons, who were the suppliers that we’re favored by the mob control organization, which meant the mob was influencing the suppliers to do certain things and getting kickbacks. So slowly but surely you gather all that evidence and the US Attorney starts putting these cooperators before a grand jury. Well, during that time, the FBI got kind of bored and sent most of their agents on to other matters, which was more exciting. And this was kind of a minor case, just a simple Mom and Pop, I would say operation of mom and pop extortion that goes all the way back to the corner candy store. gangs that would come by and say you don’t want a trouble here. We can handle this if you have any trouble, but you got to kick us every week. And so Remo and his intelligence guys take up the slack and they have to continue garden is nervous cooperators, they’ve got some cooperators, but they get nervous and sometimes even have to rent protection details on you got to give me your phone number they call you the middle of the night and ever jump on something they have to hear it outside their house or they think somebody’s following them. And that drives me crazy. So but you got to do that gotta keep them bucked-up. Otherwise, they’ll just say, you know, I’m out. I’m out of this is not worth it. This is where the work gets tricky. TV detectives they get in the shootouts, they have car chases, they have foot chases. But you know when they say shoot leather makes cases, that means you got to get out in the streets, you got to work. You got to spend time watching social clubs, bar Vatan joints, athletic clubs, front businesses, other places where mob guys show up. Pretty soon you catch a meeting with minor criminals, sports, gamblers and other citizens and from these other citizens. Pretty soon they see some of these lunch wagon like a guy that owns four or five lunch wagons or a guy that’s high up executive or owns some kind of a supply company that’s connected to the lunch wagon business. Pretty soon they see them meeting they found some regular meetings even with Phil rastelli. And so then you go back, and you got to find out everything you can about those particular people. And if you gotta get lucky, you got to figure out some way you got to get a lever on them. Usually, you start watching them, you saw them meeting with rest la one on one, then you see him falling back to their business and then you follow them everywhere they go. Or you start looking into their criminal record. Maybe they’ve got a DUI, maybe they’ve got some pedophile charge out there when you get lucky that’s a good one there. Because you can deal with these smaller charges. Maybe you see him going into a sports bar and making sports bets Maybe you see him pick up a street prostitute you get some street placement come along and pop in real quick or anything you can get to get any leverage on this guy who’s doing business with the mob because guys doing business the mob don’t really want to talk to the cops now do they find that you find a few likely targets and you confront him with what you know. And they indentified several of these businessmen who had direct conversations with Phil rastelli made him into witnesses and put in front of the grand jury so he’s charged with several underlings and actually, remotely squad with all this shoe leather they put out they wore out made a good enough case to convict Phil was Delhi, a mob boss at the time acting boss on these extortion charges. Not a big case. He didn’t get a whole lot of time. And some of the guys we had one of the guys that was worked for Remo, it was Anthony Celano. Gotta look back and just run that CLEANO, just search that in my back catalogue. You’ll find the interview with one of them. We talked a little bit about some of his following guardi around some of the other cases that he worked on. Vincent Marino, Charles Martin and Anthony Falco, so I feel like I should really mention these guys names. They’ve did a hell of a job. They were the untouchables in New York City when during the nap commission and all that other stuff came out and narcotics people that were taking money and doing everything. The intelligence guys never felt they never were involved just like our Kansas City Police Intelligence, they’re really careful about who they take in, they watch each other don’t get too high flying. During the trial and a subsequent appeals case, Rastelli and some of these other co defendants but I didn’t even look up see who those words is more minor mob guys at the time, probably nobody had ever heard of the argument, their defense was well, they freely paid us to help them out. And, of course, the charge was that they’d violated the Hobbs Act because it participated in a scheme that obstructed or delayed or affected commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce or interstate commerce by robbery or extortion, or any attempt to do any of that or threatened any physical violence in the furtherance of this plan, which is what this is all about. And they had enough evidence to do that, although here’s how it works. I just dropped by and they already know that violence had been committed on some other lunch wagon operators, they just dropped by saying, Hey, how you doing kind of vulnerable out here on the street, we want to be your friend. See you later. And pretty soon the guy said he knows what he’s got to do. He’s got to kick them to money every week. So that’s how it works. But the court ruled that even though the payments may look voluntary on the surface, previous acts by the defendants set an atmosphere where if you gave them money, then their life would be easier. So that was kind of like what came out of that. I never even thought about that. I was listening to a mob guy talk to another man. And it was all friendly and everything. So I’m telling this FBI agent and this was just an overheard conversation in a restaurant actually, I’m telling this FBI agent, my friend Bill Owsley and he said, Well, he said just think about it. He said, Yeah, he sounded all friendly and everything but what’s behind that you got to look to see what’s behind that is the right and bright threat behind that you don’t really know about the words themselves may not sound like they’re dangerous or like they’re threatening or anything but you got to know what’s behind it. So I learned something there. So now guys, the second case, Remo Franceschini, and his intelligence squad had a hidden microphone placed in the office of an oil distribution company in Brooklyn. That place is owned by a Gambino soldier named Pety “Pumps” Ferrara, I never heard of Petey Pumps. You guys ever heard of Petey Pumps? I couldn’t find out much more about him. And one day, some unknown guys from New Jersey showed up for meeting the guys that had been listening to this set up at this meeting. They knew there was something dirty going to be talked about. But they didn’t know what. So the guys get in there and pomps he starts telling about how his daughter was a nun. And how he had originally sent a great big fire bouquet to the Mother Superior and how thrilled the mother’s superior was to get those flowers and he’s talking about that and then he just pivots in a breath and he says okay, let’s get down to business this guy we got to walk him out. We’re gonna kill him. This guy’s no good as all business and this is how we’re gonna do it. You’re gonna walk in and you’re gonna say this, this stick up. That will have a backup car in case any of the blue people around we’ll know who the blue people are. Then you’ll move if you have a problem, just go to Subway get to Time Square in front of the Paramount Theater. If you don’t make your moves and a car will know by then it won’t have somebody to pick you up and borrow the Paramount At the end of the conversation as these guys left I don’t feel bad this guy is really gotta go. You know who gave us this window? Yeah. Big Paul. He’s in on it. He’s the cousin and the man walked away from the microphone now, big Paul. He’s a cousin Paul Castellano Ray Ramon his crew start scrambling identify this New Jersey crew who might be the target and they couldn’t figure it out but they knew that something was going to be happening and 30 imminently I’ve been on these deals you know something’s gonna happen and it’s pretty imminently ours was a overheard next Avella tell somebody on the phone that he wanted all unfinished business taken care of by the time he got released, which we knew was in about six months. We had about three birds in the next six months, but you can’t be everywhere at once. He did assign the famous detective Anthony Salerno Anthony’s learner worked in intelligence unit. He became famous. He wrote a book it was one of the first early mob books. He testified in front of Congress. I knew a detective that worked with him and the intelligence and Mehdi muda le IU conference, and asked him about Salerno is the guy hard everyone on the street. All he did was read reports and then get famous by going to testify in front of Congress. But according to Remo, he had Anthony’s learner and a guy named Jimmy Gary, sitting on pumps was shot guns and don’t lose him. And you could be caught in the middle of a mob hit because he might leave and you’ll be part of this hit too. They didn’t know. They believed it was a real hit. And because the kind of way the mob work, Carlo Gambino work. He gave these orders to the cousin Paul Castellano, who then gave the contractor an underling like Peter pumps Ferrara, then for are handed out this assignment to more lower level New Jersey based associates that keeps everybody insulated from this, of course, Remos thrilled I mean, here we are, you got a chance to be waiting at the scene of a mob hit just before it goes down. I mean, there’s nothing better than that. And that is rare and scarce as hen’s teeth, as we say out here in the Midwest. The only problem was they didn’t know who the intended victim was. They didn’t know when it was gonna go down. And New York City’s a huge big city as we all know, they did get the New Jersey guys identified couple of unknowns intelligence squad and New Jersey state troopers tried to keep them under surveillance, which is really hard to do, but as best they could, they kept them under surveillance. And after a month or so of doing this dedicating all this manpower Well, I’ve seen this happen a month of manpower, everybody’s devoted this nothing happens. Then PD pumps went out of town for some reason. So they just stopped it. They just go Okay, we’re done. Maybe it’s already happened. For all we know, they’ve already killed somebody, some minor guy and we just weren’t there. It didn’t come to anybody’s attention the President’s attention. But about a week later, two weeks, three weeks, maybe I’m not sure sometime the next month the homicide squad got ahold of him and said, hey, there was a hit that murdered and went down. It’s kind of strange and out in Brooklyn and a flower shop a guy named Santa Antonio. The homicide squad came to Remo and said hey, we got a suspicious hit that went down. guy working in a florist shop actually he was his father in law owned it. name is Santa Antonio got killed and it was funny he said two guys walked in so this is a stick up and just shot him down but then lap didn’t make any money. There’s a witness there the father in law who of course wouldn’t cooperate in any manner. So remote squad shared what they knew with the homicide squad and they learned through the homicide squad that the FBI had been using this guy’s an informant and he was a member of lower level associates the Gambino crime family like them. That’s it. That’s it couldn’t be there. But that’s it. So Remo said he later would share what he had with the FBI. But the relationship had been damaged for quite a while at that time. And I don’t know they’ll eventually repair it. But during this time, they just had a really bad relationship. The homicide squad could not make a prosecutable case just based on the tape conversations because they were in a miserable they were pretty vague and they were like what we used to call gypsy wires. There’s probably just nobody ever really reported them or made a complaint to the Feds it would have been illegal on a federal level to have this kind of a wired it’s kind of a hidden microphone that speak into the friction between the FBI Organized Crime Squad and remote intelligence unit. This kind of goes back few years before this leave was maybe 1967. Anyhow, I was in the 60s they observed an incident where an FBI agent was attacked by some Gambino soldiers and they did nothing in order to preserve their own surveillance. because they were watched and didn’t want anybody to know who they were and that where they were watching from. And this really had always been a source of friction between the intelligence squad, and other cops and agents, we get schooled. You don’t ever reveal yourself unless it’s a matter of life and death. I’ve watched Barbara Hall’s go down, and then nothing unless I can get a phone and maybe call somebody of what smart small time car per hours and burgers at work, and never reveal myself. And before we had cell phones, so he had like a secret Frequency radio that very few people were on, you might get call somebody on the radio of you’re in a fixed place where he didn’t want to move and tell them to call nine one and report what was going on. But maybe you didn’t even want the cops in there at all because it’s something else that we are waiting for watching for. And so you just let it go down number one night, we had another guy, we’re just so schooled in this, were sitting outside this bar waiting for somebody to come out I believe, and we saw these crowds is boil out of this place. And there’s two women in the middle of and they’re just beating the dog’s head out each other Pow, pow, pumping, they’re screaming and pulling hair. It was a hell of bite. And there’s this whole big crowd of Halloween drunks all around them cheering them on, you know, I just say not my monkey, not my circus. So these people, they bought their tickets to the fair there and they’ll play it out. I don’t need to get involved in that and then pretty soon it was over. So back to this problem between the FBI and the intelligence squad. Here’s an important source of that. Partly the FBI didn’t trust him thought they were all on the take, of course, but there was a very really important Gambino Capo named Carmine Lambardozi. He ran probably the most significant and successful crew in Brooklyn in 1957. He was also arrested with five other Gambino Capos at the Appalachian meeting. That’s how important he was. and his crew are a lot of money in loan sharking, gambling, labor racketeering and trading stolen securities. And this was early on in that business. Now, Edmond Malin of the American Mafia website, noted Lambardozi pioneered white collar crime like this for the mob like stealing stock and bond certificates or finding somebody that had stolen them and then getting taken them by them for like cents on the dollar, and then resell them or maybe they would get somebody a shill would go to a bank and put them up as collateral, the bank would just put them and hold them in a safety deposit box and use them as collateral for a big loan. And this was long before Paul Castellano was involved, when he was like a young kid where he got involved and he was the early guy into that and pioneered that business for the New York City families. But Carmine Lambardozie made a few mistakes along the way, even though he’s a big moneymaker. He did a couple of those. And one of them was he was married and he was having an affair with the daughter of one of his underlings, a guy named Sabato Miro. This is a huge No No, as we all know, and Miro made a complaint on him they had a sit down and came out that he was having this affair. Now Carmine could only save himself by get this this is old schools Old Country kind of stuff here. This is Sicilian stuff. He saved himself by divorcing his wife and marrying the daughter of savato Amuro know how bad Christmas is around those families were something else Oh my god. I don’t know how you live like that. But people do. Then not long after that he found himself in hot water again and really got the wrath of Carlo Gambino In 1963 Carmine found himself in hot water with Gambino again, he really incurred the wrath of Carlo, his father, Camilo, I think, Lambardozi. In 1963, the father of Carmino Lambardozi died. A funeral was held at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brooklyn now Carmine and his brother John Lambardozi and some other guys saw FBI agents out in front as agents and police knew with cameras and tape write down license numbers and taking pictures of people. And they went off, they attacked the agents they got control of one of the agents a man named Foley took his gun away from it and beat him severely with it. Before other agents they had some other agents in the area of course, to get to him and uniformed officers were on the scene and they got in they broke it all. And arrested them we’re nosy and the both of them and another guy believe. Remo would later say that his men were on the street watching from a distance but they had a lot of cases going against people that were in attendance there and they didn’t really want to reveal the ride. then there’s what their looked like when they would go back and do surveillances or maybe hanging out the bars where these guys were and those kinds of things when you tried to get that close to people see what they’re doing and what they’re involved in. And he would actually say we feel like the FBI was responsible for what happened when people are having a funeral you don’t just go up and aggravate people you do things covertly you keep your distance. Intelligence guys don’t do that. Now intelligence guys don’t like to get caught in the trap that forces him to testify in open court and remote spoke to one his guys he was shooting off his mouth everywhere to other coppers and everything that you know, that stupid fed bastard got right in the middle of this thing. What a jerk. He deserved what he got. Of course, that didn’t endear him to the FBI either. told him he said you better stop shooting off your mouth. But the guys learned about intelligence guys, we don’t like to testify because that puts our face out there in front. I testified one time and that was a sergeant by that mainly we really worked and we were instructed Don’t get yourself in position to testify and be up on the stand where everybody can see what you look like. And they in our case, it was other coppers too because we like always had an off site. And I bet these guys did do you got an off site? You don’t go into headquarters very much. You may but just except for people that really knew you back when you were in the streets or you’re a detective trying to like keep people from knowing you because you might end up working on policemen too. But in the end, Carmine and his brother got convicted that little bit of time assault on federal agent did a little bit of time. Now what happened, that American mafia website that I was talking about before reported that this assault on the FBI agent stimulated so much more federal attention on the Gambino crime family and all their operations that normally low key Carlo Gambino demoted Carmine Lambardozi. And he kicked him back to being a soldier and promoted a guy named Joseph Janeiro to lead that crew. But you know, this guy was a sharp guy. Even with all this trouble being demoted, Carmine continued to do well in his reduced role. And he ended up dying of natural causes at age 79 in1992. So that’s a few short stories about our friend, Remo Franchesini. Don’t forget guys, I like to ride motorcycles. So watch out for motorcycles. When you’re out there. Don’t forget that they have you been in the service and you have PTSD, go to that VA website and get that hotline number. And if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, our good friend Anthony ruggiano. And on his website, he has a hotline if you’re on my YouTube channel, you can see the hotline right now, that hotline number and he’s in the business believe down there in Florida. So if you call him and go into treatment down there in Florida, he might be one of your counselors and everything and that would be kind of cool. And then I guess from drugs or alcohol or being mob guy to be your first counselor and to help you get sober and it straight and clean and sober as they say. But anyhow, so don’t forget to like and subscribe and I appreciate all you guys out there and all the support you’ve given me in the past and I’m gonna continue to put these out. Thanks a lot guys.

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