Tuesday, May 20, 2008


by Michele McPhee

It’s official. The New England Mafia sleeps with the fishes. This week, the man whom federal prosecutors call the underboss for the Boston underworld–Carmen “The Cheese Man” DiNunzio–begged a judge to grant him access to a bigger toilet after he was locked up for trying to bribe Big Dig officials into giving him a lucrative contract to sell the highway department dirt.

For those of you unfamiliar with the $15 billion boondoggle that was Boston’s Big Dig, that was the most expensive roadway project in the history of the United States paid for with your tax dollars. In 1982, Massachusetts politicians swore the Big Dig would only cost us $3 billion and take a few years to complete. Well, it’s 2008, the job has swelled to the $15 billion-range and reputed wiseguys are still trying to get a piece of the massive swindle. That tells you roughly all you need to know.

Anyway, why the bigger toilet for the New England Mafia underboss? DiNunzio, 50, who earned his nickname from the cheese shop he owns in Boston’s Little Italy, the North End, weighs 400 pounds and can only relieve himself on a super-sized toilet. At least that’s what his lawyer argued in front of a federal judge this week.

Out loud. In public.

What is the underworld coming to when its bosses complain that their toilets are too small and continue to bloviate about themselves within earshot of wiretaps like DiNunzio did when he declared to an undercover informant posing as a dirty Massachusetts highway official: “I’m the Cheeseman."

The undercover replied: “You’re the Cheeseman?"

To which DiNunzio replied, “Ask anyone about me."

Oh boy.

But there is no one in law enforcement under the illusion that the Mafia anywhere in this country is intact. In New York City, Joseph Massino of the Bonanno crime family was the only Mafia boss not in prison. Shortly after I wrote a front page New York Daily News story dubbing him "The Last Don," Massino was arrested. He quickly rolled and became a government informant, ratting out his underlings.

Before Massino “went bad,” as underworld associates refer to government witnesses, Vincent “Vinny Ocean” Palermo, the boss of the New Jersey crime family the hit TV series The Sopranos was based on, rolled on his family. Since then, dozens of made guys have joined the witness protection program rather than serve time.

Now the feds are scraping the bottom of the barrel to sweep up wiseguys to garner those headline-grabbing arrests. In New Jersey this month, twenty-one Gambino associates were arrested in a sweep.

So as Boston’s underboss undertakes his battle for a bigger throne in prison, Brooklyn crime boss John “Jackie the Nose” D’Amico is arguing that he should be allowed to leave jail to resume his $700-a-week no-show job at a water-bottling plant. Only problem with that is that Jackie the Nose was caught bragging that he paid the company $700 a week to put his name on the payroll books to evade investigators. A judge is taking his request under consideration.

Covering the Mafia used to be so much fun. There was the crime family that plotted to kill Rudolph Giuliani and the Gotti son that wanted to kill the founder of the Guardian Angels Curtis Sliwa. Then there was Vincent “The Chin” Gigante and his famous wanderings through Greenwich Village, Manhattan in a bathrobe to shake the cops. It worked . . . for a while. What about Joey Gallo, the gangster who was shot dead in Umbertos, dying in a plate of pasta or Carmine Galante, who died with a lit stogie in his mouth.

My first book, Mob Over Miami, covered La Cosa Nostra in its glory years and exposed how South Beach, Miami was revitalized in the 1990s by gangsters' money. St. Martin’s Press announced this week it will republish the 2002 title in anticipation of a feature film, UnMade Man, based on my book.

Now, the mobsters in my book were wiseguys. This generation being chased around by the government is earning the reputation that they are the not-so-wise guys.

1 comment:

Kathryn Casey said...

Great post, Michele. I really enjoyed reading it.