Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lucchese Family

Off With Everyone's Head

Anthony Gaspipes Casso
Anthony "Gaspipes" Casso

Vic Amuso and his equally bloodthirsty underboss, Anthony "Gaspipes" Casso, ruled with the subtlety of a pair of sledgehammers.  Mob expert Jerry Capeci summarized their leadership philosophy succinctly:  "Their main idea of management was to kill anyone who displeased them in any way.  Their secondary plank was to kill anyone whom they thought might displease them."  Mafia rules and tradition went out the window when Amuso and Casso took over.

The bloodletting started when Amuso and Casso were among a slew of mobsters indicted in the "windows case," in which organized crime figures from several families were accused of bribery and extortion , obtaining exclusive contracts to repair buildings for the New York City Housing Authority.  These contracts allowed the mob to sell and install hundreds of thousands of windows to the city at inflated prices without fear of competition.  Amuso and Casso knew the government had an airtight case against them, so in 1990, they went on the lam and ruled the family from in hiding, barking out long-distance orders to whack anyone whom they suspected might be trouble.

One of their first targets was one of their own hitmen, 400-pound Pete Chiodo, who pleaded guilty to the "windows" charges, knowing that he didn't stand a chance if he went to trial.   Amuso and Casso assumed that Chiodo had made a deal with the government to testify against them in exchange for a reduced sentence.  They sent word to their acting boss, Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco, to clip "Fat Pete." 

Alphonse Little Al D'Arco
Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco

Short and sinewy, with a signature hard expression, "Little Al" did what he was told and sent a hit team to take care of Chiodo.  They ambushed him at a service station on Staten Island near the Verranzano Bridge toll plaza, where he was poking around under the hood of his car, checking the engine.  The assassins pumped seven bullets into him, "five bullets passing completely through his body," according to writer Allan May.  But none of them hit a vital organ and Chiodo survived.

Vittorio Vic Amuso
Vittorio "Vic" Amuso

Ironically, Chiodo was, in fact, a standup guy and had refused all government attempts to get him to flip.   But when Amuso sent a pair of wiseguys to Chiodo's lawyer's office with the message that Chiodo's wife would be next, "Fat Pete" began to reconsider his blood oath to the mob.  Killing women was strictly forbidden in the Mafia, but apparently Amuso and Casso had lost the rulebook, because their next attempt to deter Chiodo was an attempt on his sister's life.  A van pulled up in front of Patricia Capozzalo's home and opened fire on her as she was going inside, having just returned from taking two of her kids to school.  She was hit in the neck and back before the van raced off.  Like her brother, she survived the attack.  Shortly after the Capozzalo shooting, Chiodo's uncle, Frank Signorino, was found dead in the trunk of a car.  Chiodo had no doubts about what he was going to do now.  Thanks to Amuso and Casso's ham-fisted efforts to silence him, Chiodo went into the witness protection program and became one of the government's most productive witnesses against the Mafia.   

Anthony Tumac Accetturo
Anthony "Tumac" Accetturo

Amuso and Casso didn't quite get the basics of lying low.  While in hiding, they ordered acting boss D'Arco to kill the entire New Jersey faction of the Lucchese family, 30 members in all.  Disillusioned with Amuso's haphazard leadership, New Jersey boss Anthony "Tumac" Accetturo had stopped giving the New York leadership a piece of his pie.  From Accetturo's point of view, the members of the Jersey faction were hard-working moneymakers who got nothing but trouble from the New York bosses.  All this killing and shooting was bringing the heat down on the  Lucchese family members and was bad for business.  Accetturo tried negotiating with Amuso and Casso, but there was no placating them.  The order stood.  "Whack New Jersey!"

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