After a life devoted to crime in his teens and early 20s, Roy Demeo would eventually become a made man of the Gambino crime family Additionally, he became a proficient killer who will live on in mob lore for the deeds of “DeMeo crew” and his two most feared crew members, the Gemini Twins. DeMeo owned a Brooklyn joint at 4021 Flatlands Ave. in Brooklyn. The building is still there and in an ironic twist, it is now the Purpose Life church. Some mob historians claim the Gemini Lounge was more like the killing floor in a slaughterhouse except they killed and butchered humans instead of pigs. I remember a Sopranos’ episode where they cut up Richie Aprile’s body in Satriale’s Pork Store using the utensils normally used for the pork. The FBI claimed the DeMeo crew was responsible for as many as 200-300 murders from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The Demeo crew was described by law enforcement as the deadliest and most feared Mafia crew of the 5 Families in New York. They were described as “sadistic homicidal maniacs”, “the crazy killers”, “ice cold murderous maniacs”, “lethal animals”, “barbaric psychopaths”, and “brutal psychopathic killers.” Law Enforcement at the time estimated the DeMeo crew contained over 40 men who were each trying to outdo each other as vicious, ruthless, bloodthirsty psychopathic killers.
Anthony “Nino” Gaggi took notice of young Roy DeMeo and recruited him as an associate of the Gambino family. Gaggi encouraged DeMeo to expand the loansharking outside of his high school and gave him more money to put on the street. DeMeo recruited more young men and he branched out into car theft and drug trafficking. DeMeo’s recruited his first member of the Demeo crew Chris Rosenberg, who was a high school friend. Rosenberg was hanging out at a popular Canarsie gas station where he was basically a street dealer. Roy had connections and money that allowed Rosenberg to deal narcotics in larger amounts and make himself a narcotic wholesaler with street dealers working for him. In the early 1970s, Chris introduced some of his friends to Roy and if they seemed like they had what it takes to work with Roy, they became part of his crew. Soon the core members of this crew were Joseph “Dracula” Guglielmo Joseph Testa, Anthony Senter and Joseph’s younger brother Patrick Testa.
In one of his first more sophisticated operations, Roy joined the Borough of Brooklyn Credit Union and using his Gambino influence he was soon able to gain a position on the board of directors. This credit union became a valuable connection helping DeMeo launder his illegal profits from loansharking and drug dealing as well as other rackets. He became the money launderer for many New York drug dealers. This guy never missed a chance to make some money. Once he got himself onto the board, he utilized his position to launder money he had earned through his illegal ventures. He also influenced employees at the Credit Union to help other drug dealers launder money. DeMeo was able to utilize Credit Union money to supplement his money available to loan out in his loansharking business. He maintained a cover job as a salesman for a Brooklyn company named S & C Sportswear Corporation. He claimed he owned a variety of business and was in construction, owned a restaurant and was in the used car business.
During these formative years as a young associate in Gambino family, Roy DeMeo quickly and easily bought into the mafia tradition of Omerta and adopted his own personal code. He would never cooperate with authorities, he always maintained self-control in the face of adversity (at least on the surface), he was willing to carry out a vendetta to avenge any slight suffered by his crime family and he never forgot any deed he characterized as bad for him and his crime family. He readily bought into the idea that he was part of the Gambino family and eagerly kicked up to Nino Gaggi, his Capo. Some say that this percentage can be as much as an equal share to what the members of the crew got from a particular score.
By age 32, DeMeo was living in an expensive home with his wife and children. This is always one of those things I find fascinating about these mob guys. He leaves his nice home and children where he is Dad and the enforcer of rules and goes into the city for his work. He will soon commit his first murder for the Gambinos. He and his capo, Nino Gaggi are extorting money from a lucrative X-rated film business. Police arrest the owner, Paul Rothenberg, on a porn charge. The mobsters become convinced that Rothenberg will make a deal and give them up to the cops. Roy asks Rothenberg to meet him at a diner. Supposedly this was to talk about how they would pay his legal fees. They arrived at the diner at the same time. Roy produced a silencer-equipped gun and pulled Rothenberg into a nearby alley, shooting him several times in the head. informants would claim that Roy DeMeo said he was surprised how easy this was and how he looked at murder as just business. It was reported that he claimed he felt a sense of power committing the act of murder. He often told his underlings that once you do this, you can do anything. During the next few years, Roy Demeo trained his crew to kill without question whenever he gave the order. In a macabre twist, DeMeo had once been a butcher’s apprentice and he would train his crew members in the art of dismembering a body so they could easily dispose of it.
The Gemini Lounge
Around 1974, DeMeo bought a two-story building in Flatbush that had a bar called Phil’s Lounge. One of his crew members renamed it The Gemini Lounge and this would be the headquarters for all of the DeMeo crew’s future illegal activities. Joey Testa and Anthony Senter became known as the Gemini Twins. They recruited another stone killer named Henry Borelli. Like the Jimmy Burke crew meeting at the Bamboo lounge a short distance away, the DeMeo crew came in almost every day and drank, ate, planned scores, critiqued past scores, gossiped and did all the human activities that a mafia crew might do at their social club.
DeMeo was kind of a gun nut and he collected an impressive arsenal of machineguns, automatic rifles, and silencers in a storeroom at the lounge. He also installed his cousin, crew member Joseph “Dracula” Guglielmo into the adjoining apartment. This is a security procedure prevent the cops and/or FBI from planting listening devices.
1974, the DeMeo crew was stealing cars and selling them to chop shops. They got into a dispute over money with a body shop owner named Andrei Katz. In May 1975, a crooked cop informed Roy that Katz was snitching on them. A month later, Roy Demeo takes care of business, Joseph Testa and Henry Borelli lured Katz to a place where they could snatch him unobserved. Mob Reporter Jerry Capeci will debrief a source and get the following description. Capsci claims that Chris Rosenberg killed Katz by stabbing him several times in the heart with a butcher knife. The DeMeo crew put on butcher aprons and started to dismember the body. Rosenberg wanted to pulverize Katz’s head so he put in in a compacting machine. As the others dismembered a body part, they wrapped it in a green trash bag for disposal. They dumped these bags in a nearby garbage bin to be hauled away. The DeMeo crew dumped the body too early and before the trash truck arrived a homeless man foraging for food found the body and called the police. The crime scene investigators would find eight neatly wrapped packages. It is claimed they never found Katz’s genitals. I don’t know what that means but it scares the shit out me. The authorities turned a witness they charged the Demeo crew with this murder. However, at trial, a skillful defense lawyer completely discredited the witness and the jury returned with a not guilty verdict.
I believe this to be one of the first murders committed by the DeMeo crew and the first one to use dismemberment as a tool to dispose of the evidence. Years later a Bonanno underboss named Salvatore Vitale claimed that he delivered a dead body to Roy DeMeo and his crew around this same time and he watched as Roy DeMeo and several other members of his Crew dismembered this corpse. The crew learned a lesson from this screwup and afterward, they cut the bodies into 6 parts and dumped each package in a different place. It is said that they used a mountainous garbage dump just across the highway from the housing complex in Starrett City, which is a housing development in Brooklyn. DeMeo was kind of a perfectionist in these grisly tasks. He directed his crew members to form a “disassembly” line of butchers. These men would lure the unsuspecting victim to the Gemini Lounge. Many times they put them at ease by wining and dining them until late in the night. Once the coast was clear in the Gemini, they delivered a fatal blow. The next step was the dis-assembly-line and the victim would soon be neatly wrapped into 5-6 brown butcher paper wrappers then stuffed into garbage bags. Crew members took those body parts to separate places in Brooklyn.
In 1976, when DeMeo was 34, Carlo Gambino died. The new boss of the Gambino family was Big Paul Castellano. The person closest to Castellano was Nino Gaggi who if you remember was DeMeo’s mentor and capo of his crew. He had been earning well for Nino which is a good thing. Big Pauly Castellano despised Roy because his heritage was not from Sicily, his ancestors were from Naples. Big Paul considered Neapolitans as unreliable. But, Nino kept putting in a good word for him.
Demeo had a strong sense of duty and an overachieving “let me show you” attitude. He desired more than all else to become a made man. One of the reasons he became this killing machine, he believed that would help him earn his button. Making money was another way to earn his way into the good graces of the boss. Paul Castellano had heard the stories about DeMeo and his crew and he was very conservative, part of why Gotti wanted him dead. He wanted no “cowboys” in the family, somebody who went off and killed for the hell of it. He told Nino he would never see Roy DeMeo become a made member of the Gambino family.
DeMeo believed all he had to do was be a good soldier, do what he was told and to earn a lot of money for the family, then he would get made. He redoubled his efforts in shylocking and the stolen car racket. The Irish mob had a leader named Mickey Spillane who was being difficult about the Gambino family operating in Manhattan. DeMeo forged a relationship with an upstart leader of the Westies named Jimmy Coonan. In May 1977, Roy and Edward Grillo murdered Spillane and this allowed his friend Jimmy Coonan and his lieutenant Mickey Featherstone to become the top criminal figures on the westside. Roy informed Anthony Gaggi of the possibilities of a partnership between the Westies and the Gambino Family. They set up a meet with Paul Castellano between Coonan and his second in command Mickey Featherstone. At this meeting, the Westies were told they would now be a de-facto arm of the Gambino crime family and in return, they agreed to share 10 percent of all profits. In exchange, the Westies would be part of some good union deals and they agreed to on murder contracts for the Italians.
DeMeo was finally able to impress Big Paul with his money making and deal-making ability. Paul opened his books up and Nino once again put Roy’s name in for the status of made man. Big Paul refused at first, be son relented and finally, Roy DeMeo got his “button.” He was a member of the Gambino family. He pledged his allegiance to omerta, the Sicilian code, and knew there was no getting out of this alive.
The FBI was starting to pay attention to Roy Demeo. Anytime a guy starts making moves like this, his name will be on the lips of every deep throat or top echelon informant and when the Bureau hears a name enough, they open a case on that guy. Without the knowledge of Paul Castellano, DeMeo continued to deal in drugs and this drew the FBI’s attention. The government had also heard the stories about his killing and how feared he and his crew were by this time. Castellano thought that Roy was acting on his own initiative and had killed two potential government witness that had not been discussed or approved by his superiors. And there would be more.
Remember DeMeo’s childhood friend and drug dealer, Chris Rosenberg? He was one of those guys who always felt less than everybody else in the crew and was always trying to impress Roy. He considered Roy his Godfather and he even introduced himself as Chris DeMeo. He wanted to be Italian in the worst way. He was not the sharpest tool in the DeMeo toolbox. In 1979, Rosenberg tried to scam some Cuban drug dealers and botched the job. They were furious and out for blood. If that wasn’t bad enough he had told them he was Chris DeMeo and that he was Roy Demeo’s son. To scare them, he told the Cubans that his father had once killed three Cubans and 2 jews in a deal that went south. Of course, this just fired the Cubans up for revenge on both Chris and Roy. Chris not only put Roy in danger for no good reason but with Cubans, who had different rules, he put Roy’s family in danger. DeMeo contacted the Cubans and tried to straighten this mess out. They demanded that DeMeo murder his friend Chris that a notice of his death placed in a newspaper. If this did not happen, they would come after Roy and Chris themselves.
DeMeo went to his boss, Nino Gaggi for guidance. He was told to take care of this mess even if he had to kill Chris. DeMeo tried stalling for time but Nino gave the order again. And I think we know that an order like this should not be given more than once. DeMeo tried staying away and not leaving his house. But he was paranoid the Cubans would come for him and his family. One evening he saw a dark-skinned young guy sitting in a Cadillac in his neighborhood. Roy’s wife, Gladys, told him this was just a vacuum cleaner salesman, but Roy thought that was a ruse. Probably a ruse he had used. DeMeo took into account that the guy did not belong in his neighborhood and that he looked Hispanic and decided this was part of a Cuban hit team. He called a relative to come over and exited his house fully armed. As DeMeo approached, the man saw an armed man and peeled out at a high rate of speed. Demeo and his cousin hopped in his car and followed into what became a high-speed car chase through the streets of Brooklyn. After several miles, DeMeo caught up and jumped out shooting. He hit this man seven times, killing him. He flew back home and took his wife and three children to a hide-out house.
When they eventually came home, Roy learned what he had done: The “Cuban” outside his house had been an eighteen-year-old college student, Dominick Ragucci, who was legitimately selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door as a way to put himself through college. According to Demeo’s son, Albert, in For the Sins of My Father, he actually wept over the murder of an innocent “civilian.” In DeMeo’s brutish and unforgiving world, he broke the rules in killing this civilian. It was one thing to get approval and kill “soldiers” or to kill informants or people who double-crossed him on a deal, but this broke all the rules. This action actually exacerbated the Chris Rosenberg situation. DeMeo had to act and put this behind him before it got worse. In true mafia leader fashion, DeMeo called in his crew, except for Chris, and informed them of what he had to do. He might have said that he brought Chris into this life and it was his job to take him out. They all knew this was part of being a made man. Demeo would shoot Chris Rosenberg in the head and his other associates will pump bullets int his body. They dispose of the body on the streets so it will be found and inform the Cubans. This ended the Cuban trouble.
In this life, a guy like Roy DeMeo is not going to go too long without another conflict that will end in someone’s death. In 1979, DeMeo and his boss, Nino Gaggi, are accused of dealing in drugs by one of his Capos, James Eppolito and another Gambino soldier, James Eppolito, Jr. As a matter of interest in connection with the story about Gaspipe Casso, these men were the paternal uncle and cousin of the corrupt New York City Police Department detective, Louis Eppolito. This Eppolito family was mafia all the way, in addition to his uncle and cousin, Det. Eppolito’s father, Ralph, a made member of the Gambino family.
The Eppolitos met with Paul Castellano and accused DeMeo and Gaggi of drug dealing. At that time, to Paul Castellano, this meant a death sentence. And probably his rackets would be split among the Eppolitos. Castellano, sided with Gaggi in the situation. He gave Gaggi a free hand to take the necessary action against his accusers. Shortly afterward, Gaggi and DeMeo killed their accusers. Since they would have been unable to isolate them because of the bad blood, they had to cowboy the shooting. They tried to kill them while they were driving Eppolito Jr.’s 1978 Ford Thunderbird. Therefore, you don’t do these murders in public, a witness alerted a nearby police officer and he arrested Gaggi after a shootout between the two. The cop wounded Gaggi during this arrest and shootout.
DeMeo got away clean. The state charged Gaggi with the Eppolito murder and the attempted murder of a police officer. The family was able to bribe a juror and he was convicted of the assault on the cop and given a 5 to 15-year sentence in prison. According to the code of revenge, DeMeo murdered the witness shortly after Gaggi’s sentencing in March 1980.
Roy Demeo had increased his stolen auto operation to the point where it was paying off as much as $30,000 a week. His crew was paying people to steal cars and they were shipping them overseas where no one checked the VIN. The FBI got onto this and opened a case known as the Empire Boulevard Operation. In the summer of 1980, federal and state agents raided a warehouse serving as DeMeo’s headquarters for the stolen car racket. Authorities arrest DeMeo crew members Henry Borelli and Frederick DiNome. DeMeo was not charged and he ordered Borelli and DiNome to plead guilty to the charges. This would stop any more investigation into this conspiracy as long as they held their water.
Before we hear about DeMeo’s final demise, I must go down the Iceman path. A lot of arguments and supposition about Richard Kuklinski or the Iceman as he became known. Me, I don’t believe much of anything that has been said about “the Iceman.” Richard Kuklinski dropped out of school in the eighth grade. He would become a full-time hoodlum, stealing cars and robbing houses in Jersey City and Hoboken. He claimed he became a serial killer and was a mafia hitman. He claimed he was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Jimmy Hoffa, the murder of Carmine Galente and the murder of Paul Castellano. He claimed he murdered homeless men in the New York City area. Early in his life, the closest he came to organized crime was bootlegging copies of cartoons and X-rated movies at a lab controlled by a member of the Gambino crime family. In the early ’70s, Kuklinski got himself heavily into debt with a Gambino associate who was partners with Roy DeMeo, and DeMeo pistol-whipped him. Kuklinski claimed Demeo was impressed by his that he began giving him jobs. In the end, he will claim that he was the one who killed Roy DeMeo.
In the middle 1980s, the FBI was investigating a large number of missing and murdered persons who were linked to DeMeo. On a hidden microphone in the home of Gambino family soldier Angelo Ruggiero, agents heard Angelo and Gene Gotti, a brother of John Gotti discuss how Paul Castellano had put out a hit on DeMeo and was having difficulty finding someone willing to do the job. Gene Gotti said his brother John believed that DeMeo had an “army of killers” around him. They also agreed that while John Gotti may have killed 10 people, DeMeo had killed more than 38. Finally, Big Paul got his underboss, Frank DeCicco, to take the contract but he couldn’t get to DeMeo. DeCicco then recruited DeMeo’s own men.
In his last days, Roy’s son, Albert DeMeo, claimed Roy was paranoid and anticipated his time was up and he was marked for execution. Albert said his father even considered faking his own death and leaving the country. Roy DeMeo left his home one day, leaving his watch, wallet, and ring in his study. He also left behind a religious pamphlet indicating that Roy had gone to confession before his death.
On his last day, Roy DeMeo went to Patrick Testa’s body shop wearing a leather jacket, with a shotgun concealed underneath. That was January 10, 1983, a few days later on January 18, the feared Roy DeMeo was found murdered in the trunk of his car. The autopsy revealed he had been shot multiple times and he had entry wounds in his hands as if he had thrown up his hands in defense. The government suspected his old mentor and boss, Anthony Gaggi as the man who fired the gun. Other reports reveal that his former crew members Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter were present as well. Gaggi was not charged with this murder. He died of a heart attack during a trial in 1988 at age 62.
Over the few months, the core members of DeMeo’s crew, Henry Borelli, Joseph Testa, and Anthony Senter were imprisoned for life after two trials that saw them convicted of a collective total of 25 murders, in addition to extortion, car theft, and drug trafficking. The convictions were secured in large part by the testimony of former crew members Frederick DiNome and Dominick Montiglio.
The FBI indicted Paul Castellano for ordering the murder of DeMeo, as well as other crimes, but he was killed in December 1985. As is well known now, John Gotti ordered this murder so he could become the boss of the Gambino family.
Thus ends one of the stories about one of the most feared killers of the entire 5 families in New York City. Roy Albert Demeo rivaled Albert Anastasia and his Murder Incorporated. Like Henry Hill, he started in high school running errands for a mob-associated loan shark. Throughout the 1960s,70s, and 80s, he lived his dream and became a Gambino family associate, made member, and the leader of his own crew. He earned millions for his bosses Carlos Gambino then Paul Castallano and his mentor Nino Gaggi. And in the end, he died a real mobster’s death in a hail of bullets fired by his friends.
I would like to thank the National Crime Syndicate and Gangster Incorporated bloggers for their research. You might be interested to know that Roy Demeo’s son Albert Demeo wrote a book about his father and it received many positive Amazon reviews. The name of the book is For the Sins of My Father: A Mafia Killer, His Son, and the Legacy of a Mob Life
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