The DeCavalcante Crime Family is an organized crime family that controls organized crime activities in Elizabeth, New Jersey and Newark, New Jersey, despite operating on the other side of the Hudson River in New York, within the nationwide criminal phenomenon known as the Mafia (or Cosa Nostra). It maintains strong relations with much of Five Families of New York, plus the Philadelphia crime family and the Patriarca crime family of Boston and much of New England. Its illicit activities includes labor racketeering, money laundering, drug trafficking, illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, murder for hire, construction, building and cement violations, fraud and wire fraud, hijacking, pier thefts and fencing. It is thought that the fictional DiMeo Crime Family on the HBO original series The Sopranos, is loosely based on the real-life DeCavalcante family.
Although not recognized as an autonomous crime family until the regime of Simone DeCavalcante, the first major head of the New Jersey rackets was Gaspare D'Amico. Not much is known of D'Amico's reign despite his control of large illegal gambling and bootlegging operations in Newark throughout the early 1920s. However, it has been proven that future head of the Lucchese crime family, Gaetano "Tom" Reina, also played a large role in transportation of alcohol and whiskey in the North Jersey area during the Prohibition. After D'Amico retired sometime in the 1930s, Stefano Badami took over the rackets.
Stefano "Steve" Badami, a known racketeer during the 1930s, took over D'Amico's crime organization upon his retirement, and operated out of Newark and Trenton, New Jersey. However, his reign proved to be very disruptive, as members of the Newark and the Elizabeth factions began fighting for total control of New Jersey. As Badami kept controlling the crew up towards the 1950s, he was suddenly murdered in 1955, in what appears to have been another power struggle in between the two factions. Badami's Underboss and fellow mobster, Phil Amari stepped up to run the illegal operations.
Filippo "Phil" Amari, a mobster recognized by US law enforcement to be heavily involved with labor racketeering, loansharking, extortion and narcotics activities in Newark and New York City, was now considered the new head of the New Jersey organization. His reign proved to be very short, as there were multiple factions operating underneath who all conspired to take over. While still in charge, he relocated to Sicily and was replaced by Nicholas "Nick" Delmore, who with Underbosses of Elizabeth and Newark, Frank Majuri and Louis "Fat Lou" LaRasso attended the infamous 1957 Apalachin Convention to represent the small New Jersey crime family.
As Delmore kept running the organization before he became ill in the early 1960s, the rebellious times of New Jersey had finally ended. Nick Delmore later died in 1964, and his nephew Simone DeCavalcante was quickly installed as new boss of the newly official recognized "DeCavalcante crime family" of North Jersey.
After Simone DeCavalcante left prison, in the mid 1970s, he appointed a well-spoken and polite man, in his late 40s, named Giovanni "John the Eagle" Riggi to Acting boss of the family while he stayed semi-retired in Florida. Sam DeCavalcante stepped down as Boss officially in 1980, passing leadership to Riggi, who had been a business agent of the "International Association of Laborers and Hod Carriers", in New Jersey for years. He was promoted to the position of full-boss, and he reaped the enormous benefits of large labor and construction racketeering, loansharking, illegal gambling and extortion activities. Riggi also had the family maintain their old traditions, which Sam DeCavalcante saw as unnecessary. Among these traditions were to resume using a gun, knife, and burning holy card as props in induction ceremonies for associates to become soldiers in the family. Additionally, after Riggi used his power and influence to place subcontractors and workers other than laborers at various construction projects around the state, the DeCavalcantes were able to rip-off union welfare and pension funds. Riggi continued to run the family throughout the 1980s, with Underboss Girolamo "Jimmy" Palermo and Stefano Vitabile ("Steve the Truck Driver") as Consigliere, after the death of Frank Majuri. Riggi promoted Majuri's son Charles "Big Ears" Majuri as captain and in charge of the Newark faction, as well as himself operating out of powerful Elizabeth. It was around the mid-1980s, that Riggi established a great friendship with new reputed Gambino crime family boss, John Gotti.
According to Jerry Capeci, in the late 1980s, John Gotti reached out to Riggi for a favor: the execution of Fred Weiss, a jammed-up private sanitation magnate considered a candidate for becoming an informer. The late Gambino crime family garbage king and captain, James Failla ("Jimmy Brown"), was the catalyst for Gotti’s request, according to prosecutors Miriam Rocah, Michael McGovern and John Hillebrecht. On September 5, 1989 in his home, Riggi told capo Anthony Rotondo "that the DeCavalcante family had to get the job done at any cost", according to an FBI report obtained by Gangland. After impressing the importance of the effort on Rotondo and selecting mobsters for the task, Riggi instructed Rotondo to tell DeCavalcante associate, Vincent Palermo ("Vinny Ocean"), to visit Riggi the following day. (This is according to a report by FBI Agent Nora Conley.) On September 11, one day after Rotondo spotted Gambino crime family mobsters on the prowl near Weiss’s Staten Island home, the DeCavalcante hitmen moved into high gear, climbed into his car and James "Jimmy" Gallo and Vincent Palermo shot Weiss repeatedly, killing him instantly. Longtime official Underboss, Louis LaRasso, who also played a huge role in Weiss' murder, was also reported missing in the summer of 1991.
But later in 1989, Riggi was put on trial for racketeering and extortion charges, and chose the fierce DeCavalcante caporegime, Gaetano "Corky" Vastola, as Acting boss and to run the day-to-day activities of the family. According to US law enforcement,[Gambino crime family boss John Gotti and Underboss Sammy Gravano ("Sammy the Bull") reportedly reached out to another captain named John D'Amato ("Johnny Boy"), in an attempt to kill Vastola and try and take over the DeCavalcante crime family, however, Riggi was convicted and sent to Fort Dix Federal Prison later in 1990, as well as Vastola was jailed on extortion charges that same year, which made Riggi to promote D'Amato as the new Acting boss of the family in early 1991. Unfortunately, D'Amato got into an argument with his girlfriend, who told Anthony Rotondo that D'Amato was homosexual. Reportedly, Rotondo shared it with the current administration members Giacomo "Jake" Amari and Stefano Vitabile, who quickly acted on prior knowledge and decided to have D'Amato murdered in early 1992. Once again, Vincent Palermo and James Gallo were two of the triggermen.Another triggerman was Johnny Talvachio.
Riggi continued to run the family from his jail cell, but he appointed Giacomo Amari as new acting boss, who ran AMI Construction from Elizabeth. All was seemingly settled until Amari began to die, slowly, of stomach cancer in 1997. This caused a massive power vacuum, with members such as Charles Majuri, Frank Polizzi and the alleged Consigliere, Stefano Vitabile, all attempting to ratify and re-structure the state of the family. All of the high-ranking members, such as Charles Majuri, Stefano Vitabile, Vincent Palermo and Caporegime Anthony Rotondo were desperately pushing to become the next boss of the DeCavalcante crime family.
Toward the late 1990s, the 'Ruling Panel' kept running the DeCavalcante crime family with Giovanni Riggi still behind bars as the Boss, however, Vincent Palermo gained more power and influence and eventually became the official Acting boss of the DeCavalcante family. While shutting Majuri out of most of the family's decisions, Palermo operated out of his strip-club Wiggles, where he and other high-ranking members such as Stefano Vitabile, capos Anthony Rotondo, Giuseppe "Pino" Schifilliti, Philip "Phil" Abramo and Girolamo "Jimmy" Palermo conspired to kill several members of the DeCavalcante family, such as soldiers Frank D'Amato and Joseph Masella, even Palermo's manager at his clubs, Tom Salvata.
Around here, in 1998, began the complete downfall of the DeCavalcante family, as an associate named Ralph Guarino, who has just been arrested for organizing three drug-addicted thieves; Richard Gillette, Melvin Folk and Michael Reed to rob the Bank of America, became an informant. The Bank of America Brinks van which brought millions to the WTC every day was ambushed by the robbers and they escaped with more than $1.6 million, however, in the aftermath of the Bank of America Robbery all three of the robbers were caught and in the end, Guarino decided to become an FBI informant and give up the DeCavalcante family, instead of spending 20 years in prison. During his time as an informant, fellow mobster Joseph Masella was gunned down on the orders of Vincent Palermo, and he was offered to become a made man.
There was also a plan to murder Frank D'Amato, initiated by Vinny Palermo, and what was worse; Ralph Guarino had it all on tape. The FBI could pounce and implicate most of the DeCavalcante family on one or two offenses. On December 2, 1999, there was a massive attack, launched by US law enforcement in which they aimed to arrest over 40 members of the DeCavalcante family, which had an estimated 70 active members by that point, with over 100 associates.
They arrested Vinny Palermo, in connection with the attempted-murder of Frank D'Amato, [Charles Majuri and a whole host of other offences. They arrested Joseph "Tin Ear" Sclafani, a member of the DeCavalcante family who had been heard, on FBI tape, saying that he was going to make a robbery and unintentionally admitting to innumerable other offences, threatening to murder any police informant, without hesitation. Westley Paloscio, a bookmaker, was charged, along with four others, for the conspiracy to murder Joseph Masella. Numerous arrests were made when Bonanno associate, and informant, Jeffrey Pokross revealed a 'pump-and-dump' scam being run by the Bonnano crime family from DMN Capital Investment, in which a dozen mobsters persuaded Senior Citizens to buy worthless stocks and shares. Here, recognized capo Philip Abramo was arrested. The US law enforcement rounded up the entire crime family, and even put Giovanni Riggi, who was hoping to be released in 2003, on trial in 2000 with reputed Acting boss Vincent Palermo, UnderbossGirolamo Palermo, Consigliere Stefano Vitabile, captains Anthony Rotondo, Giuseppe Schifilliti, Philip Abramo, Frank Polizzi and Charles Majuri, even dozens of soldiers, including James Gallo and Anthony Capo
One by one, some members of the DeCavalcante family realized that they would not spend the rest of their lives behind bars, as reputed hitman Anthony Capo even became an informant, giving out information about Vincent Palermo planning to murder Frank D'Amato, and he told the US authorities about how Palermo, in person, had shot and killed Real-Estate Developer, Fred Weiss, in 1989, on the orders of Anthony Rotondo. Not long after, Rotondo broke and gave up everything, including other murder conspiracies revolving the 1990s killing of John D'Amato, Louis LaRasso and Joseph Masella, and the entire conspiracy] to kill Charles Majuri, Frank D'Amato and Tom Salvata.
By the end of both Anthony Rotondo and Anthony Capo's testimony, Palermo had to consider the possibility that with Rudolph Giuliani, New York's tough, anti-crime Mayor, he might face the death penalty, and finally, Palermo turned state's evidence as well, providing labor and construction racketeering, extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges, which were put on each of every DeCavalcante captain in the family at the time, even at two of the most high-ranking members of the family, Stefano Vitabile and Girolamo Palermo.
Thanks to the shocking testimonies of Anthony Capo, Anthony Rotondo, Vincent Palermo and the information gained via Ralph Guarino, the FBI arrested Giovanni Riggi, who was already in jail, they also arrested Jimmy Palermo (Underboss), Giuseppe Schifilliti (Capo), Philip Abramo (Capo), [Frank Polizzi (Capo), Charles Majuri (Capo) and Stefano Vitabile (Consigliere). The FBI arrested and federal prosecutors scored convictions against almost every member of the family.
As US law enforcement continues to indict, arrest and prosecute members of the DeCavalcante crime family, federal authorities estimate that Giovanni Riggi still controls the family while incarcerated, with Elizabeth faction leaders Francesco "Frank" Guarraci as the current Acting Boss on the outside while running the day-to-day activities along with current Underboss Joseph "Joe" Miranda and longtime DeCavalcante soldier Frank D'Amato as the Acting Consigliere for Stefano Vitabile, who was sentenced to life imprisonment along with captains Abramo and Schifilliti in 2006. Riggi is still on trial, if convicted, he will also be sentenced to life behind bars. The DeCavalcante family has an estimated 60 members with 100 associates.
Bosses of the DeCavalcante crime family
1910–1937 — Gaspare D'Amico (retired due to internal rivalry between Newark and Elizabeth factions in 1937.)
1937–1955 — Stefano "Steve" Badami (murderd in 1955 in another powerstruggle between the two factions of the organization.)
1955–1957 — Filippo "Phil" Amari (replaced by Nick Delmore after the war between Newark and Elizabeth factions. The Elizabeth faction later formed the family known today as the DeCavalcante crime family, but due to internal rivalry, he retired.)
1957–1964 — Nicholas "Nick" Delmore (recognized as the first official boss of the DeCavalcante crime family, attended the Apalachin Meeting in 1957, but retired and died due to ill health in 1964.)
1964–1975 — Simone "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante (nephew of Nick Delmore, expanded the family into Newark once again, and doubled the family's income and soldiers. Semi-retired in Florida by 1975. Died in 1997.)
1975–1980 — Simone DeCavalcante (Boss, semi-retired), Giovanni "John the Eagle" Riggi (acting boss)
1980–1990 — Giovanni Riggi (Boss) (convicted of extortion and racketeering], sentenced to 15 years in prison.)
1990–1991 — Giovanni Riggi (Boss, imprisoned), Gaetano "Corky" Vastola (acting boss, jailed)
1991–1992 — Giovanni Riggi| (Boss, imprisoned), John "Johnny Boy" D'Amato (acting boss, murdered)
1992–1994 — Giacomo "Jake" Amari (acting boss/underboss, died from stomach cancer.)
1994–2000 — Ruling Committee/Panel (street bosses) Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo (defected 2000), Charles "Big Ears" Majuri (jailed), Girolamo "Jimmy" Palermo (jailed, house arrest) (Ruling Committee/Panel disbanded.)
2000–2006 — Giovanni (Boss, imprisoned), Stefano "Steve the Truck Driver" Vitabile (acting boss/consigliere, jailed)
2006–2008 — Giovanni Riggi (Boss, imprisoned), Francesco "Frank" Guaracci (street boss) (Sicillian born Guaracci is listed as street boss and is allegedly running the day-to-day activities), Girolamo Palermo (underboss, jailed), Stefano Vitabile (consigliere, jailed), Frank D'Amato (acting consigliere)
2008–present — Francesco Guarraci (boss), Joseph Miranda (underboss), Frank D'Amato (consigliere) (present regime-hierarchy 2008)