Legendary Colombo family gangster John (Sonny) Franzese is certainly past his prime. But the feds say the nonagenarian wiseguy is so well-versed in the art of the modern day mob hit that they want jurors at his upcoming racketeering trial to hear him expound on his style.
Prosecutors want jurors to listen to tapes where Franzese, who celebrated his 93d birthday two weeks ago, talks to a pal about his prowess as a mob hitman who was suspected in many gangland-style slayings by authorities over the years but "never caught." Since murder is a favored wiseguy tool, the feds say Sonny's skill at it would tend to prove that he was part of the racketeering conspiracy during the years - 2002 to 2006 - that he is charged with several loansharking and extortion scams.
"Franzese noted that he had committed numerous murders in connection with his membership in the Colombo crime family," prosecutors Elizabeth Geddes, James Gatta and Rachel Nash say in court filings.
At the time he was speaking, Franzese thought he was talking to an up and coming mob recruit who was going to be "made." Actually, Gaetano (Guy) Fatato, whose status as a mob turncoat was disclosed by Gang Land in 2007, was working for the feds and wired for sound.
One reason he never got caught, Franzese told Fatato, was "that he used to wear nail polish on his fingertips during murders to avoid leaving fingerprints," the prosecutors say in the papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
On October 13, 2006, while discussing the then-pending case against acting boss Alphonse Persico for the 1999 murder of William (Wild Bill) Cutolo, whose body had not yet been recovered, Franzese stressed the importance of disposing of murder victims.
"Today, you can't have a body no more... It's better to take that half-an-hour, an hour, to get rid of the body than it is to leave the body on the street," he said, according to the prosecutors.
A few months later, on December 4, 2006, the prosecutors wrote, Franzese told Fatato that he had done "a lot of work" back in the 1950s and 1960s for the Colombo family: "I killed a lot of guys ... you're not talking about four, five, six, ten."
He spoke glowingly of two "tough bastards" who, like him and current family boss Carmine (Junior) Persico, were involved in the shooting war that raged those years between loyalists of then-boss Joe Profaci and rebels aligned with the upstart Gallo brothers led by Crazy Joe Gallo.
Interestingly, the tough wiseguys he singled out for praise - Joseph (Joe Jelly) Gioelli and Salvatore (Sally D) D'Ambrosio - were each killed the way Sonny believes murder victims should be whacked today: their bodies were never found.
D'Ambrosio, who disappeared in December, 1969, is said to have been killed in a Bensonhurst social club - his bloodstained shirt was found there later - on orders from boss Joe Colombo.
Nine years earlier, Sally D was one of several Profaci stawarts who dispatched Gioelli, a roly poly gangster who enjoyed deep-sea fishing, on a boat out of Sheepshead Bay. The next day, the crew wrapped his coat around a dead fish and tossed it in front of a Gravesend candy store where he hung out to announce that Joe Jelly was "sleeping with the fishes."
Franzese, whose mob star shone until he was convicted of a bank robbery conspiracy in 1967 and he was hit with a 50-year sentence, was so feared back then, he boasted to Fatato, that "a newspaper had once reported that he was responsible for hundreds of murders."
If Fatato were called on to take part in a hit, Sonny said "he should wear a hairnet to avoid leaving DNA evidence," the prosecutors wrote. He also offered grisly cooking lessons. Disposal of a body, Franzese advised Fatato, could be accomplished "by dismembering the corpse in a kiddie pool and drying the severed body parts in a microwave before stuffing the parts in a commercial-grade garbage disposal," wrote Geddes, Gatta and Nash.
As you might expect, Franzese's lawyer has asked trial judge Brian Cogan to block prosecutors from using any taped discussions about killings Sonny may have committed decades before the charges in the current indictment. In court papers filed last week, attorney Richard Lind argues that the "alleged murders" his client "boasted" about were so old, had nothing to do with the charges against any of the six defendants in the case, and were so "far more serious" than the charged crimes that Franzese could not receive a fair trial if they were introduced into evidence.
Meanwhile, as Gang Land reported last week, Franzese's namesake, son John Jr., who has been an FBI informer since 1996, is waiting in the wings to take the witnesss stand and point a damning fnger at his aging Mafia father.